CLEVELAND – After 15 years in the NBA – 35,000 minutes and 20,000 points – there’s at least one thing that the Nets’ LaMarcus Aldridge hasn’t figured out yet.
Come off the bench.
Aldridge was not just a starter for his entire career, but a star. And getting off the bench was no easy adjustment for the seven-time All-Star – something he did for the greater good.
“It’s very difficult. You have been one type of player or a certain type of player in your entire career. Getting off the bench and not playing much is definitely different, ”Aldridge said. “So it’s difficult.… I’m still trying to figure it out and navigate and find my places. And I’m trying to find ways to try and help.
After Aldridge’s rookie campaign, he went 13 straight years without a single game off the bench. That is, until last season, the Spurs did so three times before buying him.
Asked if mental adjustment was easy to get off the bench in his brief retirement, Aldridge admitted it was neither simple nor absolute.
“It’s an ongoing war. It’s not. You fix it and it’s over. You still have a few moments where sometimes it’s not hard to get out and sometimes it’s hard not to start,” Aldridge said. “But I’m back to winning, and I’m here to win and try to win everything . So, if that’s my role, that’s what it is.
If Aldridge wants to start, he is not alone in that desire. Many Nets fans are desperate to see him on the line too.
Aldridge logged a career-low 20.6 minutes as the Nets’ third-leading scorer (12.9 ppg) against the Tilt and Cavaliers on Monday and despite not starting a single game. Patty Mills – who played with him in Portland and San Antonio – was not shocked at the effectiveness of his friend, only about how well he played this new role.
“The amazing thing for me is that they are able to make the most of the opportunities coming off the bench,” Mills said. “Obviously, it’s new to him. But he is such a pro in that way and is still able to find ways to influence the game. And when he achieves that, we work well as a team. ”
The Nets are 9-1 when Aldridge breaks two digits. And he has reaffirmed his role as a non-starter.
The last time the Nets faced the Cavs – in Brooklyn on Wednesday – Aldridge had a season-high 24 points with 14 in the fourth quarter. And in Friday’s win over Orlando, they had 11 of their 15 in the final eight minutes.
“I had a little boy on me, so [James Harden] Said to get down there. And he came to me [once] I got down there, “Aldridge said.” I’m more comfortable out there, so I’m doing what I can. ”
Maybe, he’s just doing it off the bench.
Last season, Harden frequently ran the second unit. But now, with Kyrie Irving out, Steve Nash does not have the luxury of separating Harden and Kevin Durant.
Nash has used Aldridge as a scoring punch off the bench and said he wants to keep the 36-year-old fresh for the postseason.
“I understand that. I’m definitely trying to stay fresh, trying to save [legs]. But, I understand that you have to play a little bit so your legs can handle 30 minutes. So I see both sides of it. ”
Nash starts Blake Griffin every game, big at the start of the season and uses Griffin alongside Nick Claxton. For his part, Aldridge turned to questions about how comfortable he was with switching to the first unit.
“That’s more Steve’s question,” Aldridge laughed. “But of course, I always feel comfortable when I’m outside … so I don’t mind it. But it’s more about what the whole team wants.