A former member of the San Antonio Spurs announced his sudden retirement after just five games with his new team on Twitter Thursday morning. Fans, along with members of the media, are trying to make sense of the LaMarcus Aldridge news while debating the totality of his career.
Aldridge experienced an irregular heartbeat in his last game with the Nets during their matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers and informed the team the following day. The news sent a shock through the league as players sent their support.
Aldridge, who was in his 15th season, has been a frustrating player to watch at times because of his reluctance to venture out to the 3-point line. Still, he has been one of the more consistent players at his position for a decade and a half, amassing individual accolades (seven All-Star Game appearances and five All-NBA selections) and leaving the game with strong individual numbers (19.4 points and 8.2 rebounds per game).
While his time in San Antonio had its rough patches and the pairing with DeMar DeRozan was less than ideal, Aldridge averaged 19.5 points and 8.0 rebounds per game with the Spurs.
The numbers were solid, but the pairing with DeRozan is what I want to key in on. There will be plenty of pieces published about whether or not Aldridge is a Hall of Famer or what his retirement means for the Nets, or whether Spurs fans should view his time in San Antonio fondly. I don’t want to focus on that.
The reason? DeRozan and Aldridge represent antiquated player archetypes from an era I remember fondly. DeRozan and Aldridge are remnants of obsolete play styles (midrange isolation and post-ups) that are no longer lynchpins for a championship-caliber team.
The Changing game devalued the San Antonio Spurs’ duo
The era of analytics and the 3-point boom has led to the devaluing of both players. However, taking Aldridge and DeRozan at their peaks and placing them in the 2000s could have been the foundation for an elite team.
We valued different things in the 2000s, mainly big men who could post up and guards who were scoring machines. And while tremendously flawed, the 2000s hold some of my most enjoyable memories as a basketball fan.
With both Aldridge and DeRozan, I’ve always felt that the NBA world has spent more time talking about their weaknesses rather than their strengths. In the 2000s, players with their skill sets would be seen as superstars that teams could build around.
Fanbases would be confident that they would have a chance at a deep playoff run every season with a duo like Aldridge and DeRozan. Instead, in the 2010s, both players were picked apart for not shooting more threes and refusing to evolve with the rest of the league.
An offense built around Aldridge’s ability to post up and hit pick-and-pop jumpers from inside the arc combined with DeRozan’s scoring ability and underrated playmaking would’ve made for not only a dominant duo but a fun one.
Aldridge was merely 49 points away from cracking the 20k club before his retirement, which is a real bummer. DeRozan needs 2,594 more points to reach that milestone. I expect he’ll eclipse 20k easily in the next two and a half seasons. Despite the criticism, both players have proven to be big-time scorers who’ve also been efficient.
There was an obsession to try and make Aldridge a different player than he was comfortable being. Although he and DeRozan linked up after their respective primes, the kid in me who appreciated both players at their peaks and who also loved most things about the NBA in the 2000s would’ve loved a throwback team constructed around the peak versions of both guys.
I think they could’ve been pretty damn good.