The San Antonio Spurs, gearing for a shot at the top spot in the Western Conference standings during the season’s final month, will lose one of its best players to a frightening condition. LaMarcus Aldridge, the five-time All-Star that signed with the team in 2015, will miss an “indefinite period” with a minor heart arrhythmia.
From the team:
LaMarcus Aldridge will be out for an indefinite period due to an occurrence of a minor heart arrhythmia. pic.twitter.com/s0D2Enc6RO
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) March 11, 2017
Aldridge, 31, is in his second season with the club. He averages 17.3 points and 7.5 rebounds a contest, along with a block, in under 33 minutes a game. Aldridge missed the All-Star team in 2017 for the first time in six seasons and the big man is producing lowered game averages unseen since his rookie season in Portland all the way back in 2006-07, but that’s mostly due to San Antonio’s insistence on playing its stars (even MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard) limited minutes.
Nevertheless, Aldridge remains a terrific player, working up All-Star-notable numbers in decreased minutes, as San Antonio readies for the stretch drive and what the team hopes will be a two-month postseason run.
San Antonio is 50-14, in the midst of a whirlwind week that saw the team return to down Sacramento in spectacular fashion while working without Aldridge and Leonard. This came prior to Thursday’s loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, played without aging star Tony Parker, one that saw Leonard leave the contest due to concussion protocol and Aldridge hit for a typical 17 points and 6 rebounds in just 31 minutes.
The team had already planned on sitting Leonard and Parker for Saturday’s much-anticipated contest against the top-ranked Golden State Warriors, who entered Saturday in a slump and just a game and a half up on the Spurs while working without Kevin Durant for the foreseeable future.
Aldridge’s absence puts the whole enterprise in perspective, and (once he’s deigned to dip his toe back into the world of sports) his departure will leave the Spurs in a bit of a hole, basketball-wise.
A starter at forward alongside first-year Spurs center Dewayne Dedmon (5.3 points and 7.3 rebounds in just 17 minutes in 20 starts, all of them recent), Aldridge had previously missed six games this season due to San Antonio’s insistence on resting its players.
Aldridge’s absence in the Sacramento win (due to rest) was mostly overcome by the presence of a strong Spurs bench, if not frontcourt, and the steady play of replacement veteran scoring forward David Lee (who contributed 18 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks as a starter) in the win. The 36-year old Pau Gasol, a starter for 39 out of 47 contests (while working through his own injury woes on the season) could also see increased minutes in the tail end of his first year as a Spur.
The Spurs, who lost three of five down the stretch last season while resting its players in anticipation of a long playoff run, are looking to make their first NBA Finals since 2014’s championship run. The team lost in the first round to the Los Angeles Clippers during the 2016 playoffs, a disappointing show, and Aldridge has never played past the second round of the postseason in his NBA career.
Aldridge missed the tail end of the 2006-07 season, his rookie year, after being diagnosed with Wolff–Parkinson–White syndrome, a condition that can result in sudden cardiac arrest. Prior to the 2011-12 season he underwent an operation to correct heart “abnormalities,” putting him on the shelf for two weeks during training camp.
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