Steve Nash finally pulled the trigger on Monday night. Now, the question is, will it be a long-term move or just a decision he felt was needed at the time?
The Nets’ coach inserted LaMarcus Aldridge into the starting lineup to start the second half of the Nets’ victory over the Cavaliers, a choice that sparked his team to a road win as Blake Griffin’s season-long struggles continued. Down 11 at the half, the Nets outscored Cleveland by 16 after the break, with Aldridge playing a major role.
“Other coaches have been using their big men to help so much off the penetrators, so when we get space in that corner, ‘L’ was able to knock that shot down,” Kevin Durant said. “They feel less comfortable leaving him wide open to come help. He’s been taking advantage of those opportunities.”
Aldridge produced a double-double of 21 points and 11 rebounds in the win, and produced a plus-14 rating, the second-highest on the Nets. Griffin, meanwhile, sat the entire second half. Aldridge has scored in double figures eight times in 11 games this month, as the Nets have won seven of those eight.
“L.A. obviously was making shots and spacing the floor for us,” Nash said. “Just tried to make adjustments to see if we could generate some energy and pace and turn the game.”
After the game, Nash was noncommittal about his plans moving forward, although he did say it is something that has been discussed, and will continue to be debated internally. But Nash also noted that he didn’t want to overreact, meaning that Griffin may still have some wiggle room, as the Nets have won six of their last seven games to improve to an Eastern Conference-best 13-5.
But considering how Aldridge and Griffin, respectively, have performed, making the move permanent would make sense.
Griffin has been a shell of the player that joined the Nets last February, averaging just 5.5 points on 4.9 rebounds while shooting just 31.8 percent from the field and 16.1 percent from beyond the arc. Early in the year, he was misfiring. Lately, he’s been hesitant, allowing teams to shade Durant and James Harden with Griffin’s defender. That’s not nearly as much of an option when sweet-shooting 6-foot-11 Aldridge, the Nets’ third-leading scorer at 13.4 points in 21.4 minutes per game, is on the floor due to his 57.7 shooting percentage.
“That’s where I try to help out, try to knock down shots,” Aldridge said. “Hopefully that opens up the floor for [Kevin] and James to try to get to the rim.”
Aldridge was admittedly caught off guard by the move, but it didn’t show. In fact, while he has been a good soldier about his new role as a reserve for the first time in his 16-year career, it has clearly been an adjustment.
He recently said it’s been a struggle to adapt to not starting, calling it an “ongoing battle.” Unless Griffin suddenly finds his game, it’s going to be difficult for Nash not to make the change permanent.
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