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Spurs Playoff Hopes Dealt Blow With Aldridge Injury

The NBA season has been on pause since March 12 after Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz became the first players in the league to contract COVID-19. Both made quick recoveries, as did other NBA players like Kevin Durant of the Nets. Now, with the league slated to return on July 31 with 22 of the 30 teams heading to Orlando in order to play eight regular-season games in order to set the playoff field, it sets things up for an interesting stretch run. While the Nets have already ruled out Durant and Kyrie Irving from taking the floor once the league returns, another bubble team took a hit Monday.

The San Antonio Spurs are one of the 22 teams heading to the Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World next month for the season restart, but they will be minus one of their key components of their rotation. According to Shams Charania, LaMarcus Aldridge is out for the remainder of the season after having arthroscopic surgery and rotator cuff debridement on his right shoulder. That procedure took place nearly six weeks ago, back on April 24, but was finally announced.

The injury is a major blow for Aldridge, who turns 35 next month. He was averaging 18.9 points plus 7.4 rebounds per game over the course of 53 games this season. In addition, he was shooting a career-best 53.2 percent from the floor int the effective field goal percentage metric. He was shooting 38.9 percent from beyond the arc, knocking down a career-high 61 three-pointers this season. That accounts for just over one-third of his 182 career triples. Aldridge was second on the team in scoring, trailing DeMar DeRozan’s 22.2 points a contest, while leading the team in rebounding on the year.

As it stands, Aldridge is expected to be able to make a full recovery and be ready to take the floor when training camp for the 2020-21 season. As it stands, that is expected to be in November or perhaps early December depending on how things unfold in the coming months. He has one year left on his deal and is slated to make $24 million in the 2020-21 campaign.

It’s clear that Aldridge is in the twilight of his career at this stage of the game. The injury to him takes a major contributor out of San Antonio’s rotation for the rest of this season. San Antonio was 27-36, 12th in the Western Conference standings, when the league went into its pause mode. That left them four games behind the Grizzlies for the final playoff spot in the West and the team now has eight games to try and jump to at least the ninth spot for a chance to earn the final playoff spot via the play-in strategy. San Antonio has to leapfrog three other teams to get to that point as they try to maintain their playoff run, which dates back to the 1997-98 season when coach Gregg Popovich had his first full season running the team.

Without Aldridge in the middle of the San Antonio offensive attack, it’s going to be tough sledding, especially with a short eight-game stretch to try and climb up the standings. That’s going to put pressure on DeRozan, who, in his second year with the team, now has to try and be the primary option and elevate the rest of the rotation in order to just get the team to the playoffs. It’s going to be a tough climb, one that Aldridge would have wanted to be a part of. Unfortunately for him, and even more so for the Spurs, it will be next season by the time he takes the floor again.

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Chris Kubala

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