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A healthy LaMarcus Aldridge could be third scoring option for Nets

LaMarcus Aldridge of the Nets celebrates after scoring

LaMarcus Aldridge of the Nets celebrates after scoring his 20,000th point during a game against the Pacers at Barclays Center on Friday. Credit: Errol Anderson

Five games into his Nets tenure last season, former All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge suffered a heart episode during a game that prompted him to retire on the spot. It appeared his NBA career might have come to an abrupt end after 15 seasons at a time when he was 49 points short of the career 20,000-point mark.

But Aldridge received a clean bill of health during the offseason, rejoined the Nets and topped the 20,000-point plateau with a 21-point effort Friday night in the Nets’ win over the Pacers.

"It feels good, man," Aldridge said. "I definitely didn’t think it was going to happen after what happened last year. It definitely felt good to get it done and be back out there. I just feel blessed."

Aldridge said his Nets teammates have been counting down the points he needed, and he knew he entered the Pacers game 10 points short of 20,000. He scored the final eight points of the third quarter for the Nets, and the third of those four straight baskets gave him an even 20,000.

With a smile, Aldridge recounted a conversation with Kevin Durant, who assisted the previous two baskets before the big one, during a timeout before the basket that made him the 48th player in NBA history to score 20,000 points. "I was sitting there with Kev and said, ‘Man, I need one more bucket for 20K,’ and he said, ‘I want to pass it to you,’" Aldridge said. "But they ended up trapping him, and I wasn’t there. That’s why, when I hit the shot [assisted by Jevon Carter], I looked over at Kev and started laughing."

It was a great moment, but the nine fourth-quarter points Aldridge added were even more important in helping the Nets pull out a victory after the Pacers tied the game at 90 with 5:15 left to play. His performance raised the question of whether Aldridge might become the third offensive option behind Durant and Harden, both of whom also are in the 20,000-point club, for the Nets, who faced the Pistons Sunday night at Barclays Center.

Aldridge had an earlier 23-point game in a win at Philadelphia that showed he still is a capable scorer at the age of 36 who might replace the absence of Kyrie Irving, who will not be with the team unless he gets vaccinated and is eligible for all games.

Nets coach Steve Nash praised Aldridge’s career milestone and also cited his value on the defensive end. But the coach doesn’t want to single out one player to take up the slack for Irving.

"I think it will probably be by committee, depending on the matchups," Nash said. "We have a lot of really good shooters that aren’t making shots right now. Lots. Once we get a feel for one another, we get some confidence, some clarity, I think the shots will go in and that will be by committee, the third scorer."

Durant also expressed his admiration for Aldridge, who has made his living off the mid-range game and is just so-so from three-point range. "He has scoring instincts," Durant said. "He’s one of those guys that can get you baskets in the midst of a lot of chaos, 20,000 points for a career . . . That’s a huge accomplishment. I know he wants much more, but this is a huge milestone for him."

But like Nash, Durant side-stepped the "third scorer" question. "Patty [Mills] played that role a couple times, ‘L’s’ played it a couple times now, and I love what Paul [Millsap] brought us tonight. So I feel like we’re going to do that by committee, and you never know who’s going to consistently step up and fill that role for us."

New York Sports