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LaMarcus Aldridge sudden retirement, Sunny days ahead

As the NBA regular season dwindles away and playoffs right around the corner, the overall atmosphere of NBA basketball has changed.


At first, there was much excitement about the league returning amidst the global pandemic. Now, however, there seems to be a rushed, “Are we there yet?” feeling among teams, players and front offices across the league.


The quality of basketball being displayed mirrors the Summer League with some of the lineups being trotted out on the court night-in and night-out thanks to injuries and/or COVID protocols.


The playoffs could not come sooner in a season that is quickly becoming quite forgettable.


LaMarcus Aldridge hangs em’ up


Former star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge announced his retirement from the NBA following an irregular heartbeat discovered following a game about one week ago.


Aldridge began the season with the San Antonio Spurs before mutually agreeing to part ways via the buyout market and eventually ended up with the Brooklyn Nets.


Aldridge started a handful of games for Brooklyn and had an immediate impact on both ends of the floor providing spacing on offense, as well as surprisingly adequate defense as a small-ball five.


He described the situation as “very scary” in a heartfelt social media post saying goodbye to the game of basketball.


The 35-year-old spent 15 seasons in the NBA racking up seven all-star nods and was a five-time All-NBA nominee.


He averaged 19.4 points a game to go along with 8.2 rebounds and was a stalwart small-ball center in an era that transitioned away from traditional big men.


Health in the NBA amidst a global pandemic


The Phoenix Suns have been remarkably healthy all season long (knock on wood) and their record shows it.


The acquisition of the ‘Point God’ Chris Paul in the offseason to go along with the seriously matured Devin Booker have elevated the Suns from laughingstock of the league to potential Western conference contender.


And while Paul and Booker have raised the team’s ceilings along with the explosive and sturdy youth movement, health has been the biggest reason why Phoenix is tied with the LA Clippers for second in the West while only trailing the Utah Jazz by 1.5 games for first.


Paul, Booker, center Deandre Ayton, forward Jae Crowder and wings Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson haven’t missed much time, if at all, and all have contributed to helping Phoenix host the seventh best offensive rating and fifth best defensive rating in the NBA, according to NBA Advanced Stats.


Head coach Monty Williams will be heavily considered for Coach of the Year after picking up where the team left off in the NBA Bubble last season, which saw Phoenix go 8-0 in its seeding games and narrowly missing the postseason.


As the rest of the Western conference ails, Phoenix has a legit opportunity to – at the very least – find themselves in the conference finals.


The Denver Nuggets lost starting point guard Jamal Murray for the rest of the season due to a torn ACL.


The LA Lakers have been without stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis for a majority of the season, and although both are expected to return before the playoffs begin, conditioning will be an important factor as both attempt to ramp up their play.


Utah was like Phoenix in that they remained unscathed for a majority of the season prior to guard Donovan Mitchell spraining his ankle a few games ago. They remain a legit threat.


The LA Clippers have found ways to win despite load management and missing center Serge Ibaka and guard Patrick Beverley for chunks of the season. As a team, they are running through the league while enjoying the best shooting season ever, led by star forwards Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.


(Author’s note: The Clippers are my pick to come out of the West)


Needless to say, the NBA has seen most teams been hampered by injuries and COVID protocols. The Suns have managed to escape both, and their health and chemistry will play a key role in a potential finals run.


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