Short-handed Nets bracing for LaMarcus Aldridge injury news

TEMPE, Ariz. — It’s a given that Brooklyn’s LaMarcus Aldridge is going to miss Tuesday night’s game against the NBA-leading Suns. But the Nets are waiting to see just how long they’re going to be without their veteran center.

Aldridge sprained his left ankle with 9:53 remaining in Saturday’s loss at Golden State. He was on crutches afterward, and left Chase Center in a walking boot. While the rest of his teammates were practicing Monday, Aldridge was busy seeing a specialist in Arizona and undergoing an MRI exam.

“I spoke to him after the game. His spirits are high. Of course we don’t know what the scans will be, so we’ve just got to pray for him,” Nic Claxton said. “It sucks going through these injuries. If anybody knows, I know. But he’s got to stay as positive as he can be, and hopefully we get him back as soon as possible.”

Losing Aldridge for an extended period — which seems like a distinct possibility — would be a tough pill to swallow for the already-shorthanded Nets. With Kevin Durant and James Harden sidelined, and Kyrie Irving only playing road games, Brooklyn has actually run its offense through Aldridge in the low post at times.

But in keeping with their injury-riddled season, the Nets are going to have to make do without Aldridge. With Blake Griffin seemingly relegated to fourth in a four-man race lately, Claxton could be in line to get the start against the Suns.

LaMarcus Aldridge got an MRI exam.
Getty Images

“Yeah, I’m really used to it. Missing guys, having guys [only] on the road, you’ve just got to be able to adapt,” Claxton said. “That’s just the league.”

On a team shockingly short on shooters, Aldridge provides both a midrange threat and the only post-up game whatsoever. The Nets are 18-7 when he cracks double-figures, but they’ll have to shuffle their center rotation again.

Steve Nash has started three different centers in the past three games: Rookie Day’Ron Sharpe against the Lakers, then Aldridge versus Denver and finally Claxton at Golden State, where Sharpe took a DNP-Coach’s Decision.

“He’s completely healthy,” Nash said. “Just trying to manage the books.”

Now the Nets have had a page ripped out of that book. Claxton has been in the midst of a strong run over his last 13 games, averaging 11.8 points on 66.7 percent shooting with 6.3 boards and 1.2 blocks. He’s braced to see his playing time go up until Aldridge returns.

“It’s my job is just to come out and just be ready for whatever, whether I’m starting, coming off the bench,” Claxton said. “That’s how it’s been my whole time here in Brooklyn, really. So I’ve got to come out and be ready for whatever. Whatever minutes I play, I’ve got to be the best version of myself.”

Sharpe had starred eight straight games before missing Wednesday’s loss to the Nuggets with a non-COVID illness and taking a healthy DNP Saturday.

Nic Claxton
Getty Images

Griffin hasn’t started since Dec. 18 after falling behind Sharpe in the pecking order, but was a solid plus-13 in just 15:45 against the Warriors.

“He did good. Blake’s done well in the minutes he’s gotten,” Nash said. “I know it’s been spotty for him, but he’s intelligent, physical and experienced. He brings something for our team, and I think he’s done everything we’ve asked of him.

“It’s tricky. You’ve got four or five guys at that position who can contribute: Day’Ron’s played really well. So has L.A., so has Nic. So trying to balance the books there is tricky. But Blake’s great and he definitely brings something to our team.”

Whoever plays will be facing a Phoenix team with the league’s best record (40-9) and winning streak (10), though not Deandre Ayton with the star center set to miss his eighth consecutive game.

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