Nets’ LaMarcus Aldridge has sprained ankle

PHOENIX — It’s hard to say LaMarcus Aldridge missing at least the next three games is good news. But the Nets seem to have dodged the really bad news.

Aldridge injured his left ankle late in the loss Saturday at Golden State, and he left Chase Center on crutches and in a walking boot. While an MRI exam Monday confirmed a sprain, it clearly could’ve been much more severe.

The veteran center is slated to be reexamined after the Nets return to Brooklyn on Monday, and is expected back before the All-Star break.

“LaMarcus will be out the rest of the trip,” coach Steve Nash said before the Nets’ 121-111 loss to the Suns at Footprint Center, the second game of a five-city western swing. “He’s got a little sprain, so we’ll reevaluate him after the trip.”

A little sprain beats the alternatives.

Nets head coach Steve Nash and Lamarcus Aldridge talk after a play.
Getty Images

“There’s always a dark side, a bad side of all these injuries or incidents in a game, so you can always look at the positive side,” Nash said. “And fortunately I don’t think it’s a long-term thing; it’s more of a short-term thing.”

After Tuesday, the Nets have nine more dates before the All-Star break, wrapping up with a back-to-back Feb. 16 at the Knicks and the next night at home against Washington. Then the Nets enjoy a weeklong break, and Nash said he doesn’t think the ankle injury will sideline Aldridge until the proverbial second half of the season.

“No, hopefully we’ll see him before then,” Nash said. “But I couldn’t guarantee it. But we’re not there yet.”

Nash didn’t reveal what grade of sprain Aldridge had suffered. But considering the Nets’ conservative nature when it comes to injuries, it seems unlikely that he’d suffered a Grade 2 and all but impossible that it was a Grade 3.

A Grade 2 sprain would likely keep Aldridge out for four to six weeks. A Grade 3 would’ve required surgery for a 36-year-old on an expiring contract.

“Yeah, it’s tough. He had an ankle or a foot, basically the same thing a few weeks ago. Now he’s got this again,” Nash said. “But look: He’s back, he’s played well. Going from retired to back and playing well is a big win regardless of the some of the interruptions.”

Because of this latest interruption, the Nets are down from four centers to three: Nic Claxton, Blake Griffin and rookie Day’Ron Sharpe.

“You obviously hate to see somebody go down, especially LaMarcus. He’s been playing so good for us. He’s a veteran presence,” Griffin said. “But yeah, it’s just happened time after time this season to key guys, so guys have done a good job stepping up. Day’Ron is more than capable, he’s got some experience now. So we still have three centers, so we’ll do it by committee.”

Before the game Tuesday, Nash had started three different centers in the prior three games: Sharpe against the Lakers, Aldridge versus the Nuggets and Claxton at Golden State, where Sharpe didn’t play.

Claxton seems the likeliest to get the nod in Aldridge’s absence.

The Nets' Nic Claxton (33) dunks in the first half of a game against the Spurs, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, in Brooklyn.
Nic Claxton
Corey Sipkin/New York Post

“Nic’s a big part of what we do. He offers us a unique way with just his defensive ability to guard multiple positions, and his rolling and offensive rebounding,” Nash said. “So he started quite a good stretch this year, so he’s going to have to continue to raise his game and play well and have to be an athletic center for us.”

Sharpe had started eight straight before a non-COVID illness sidelined him for one game. He sat out the next game as Griffin got his minutes.

“No, he did very well. We just are giving BG more looks and the minutes, and that was the decision on Saturday,” Nash said. “Now LaMarcus is out, Day’Ron’s got a chance to figure in, if it falls his way.”

Whether or not there will be minutes for both Griffin and Sharpe or just one of them, Griffin said he’ll be ready as needed.

“Just focus on doing your job,” Griffin said. “That’s the one thing you can control: Your job and what you’re doing on the court. You can’t control minutes or anything like that.”

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