SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Spurs star LaMarcus Aldridge was cleared to return to full basketball activities and will start Wednesday night against the Portland Trail Blazers with no restrictions, the team announced.
Aldridge missed two games after being diagnosed with a minor heart arrhythmia, but San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich revealed Wednesday that the 31-year-old forward has been concerned about the condition all season.
"He's dealt with this all year long, which nobody really knew about," Popovich said. "Being a consummate pro, he was able to do everything that was necessary to bring this to some sort of a conclusion. That wasn't easy throughout the year. He's gone through some procedures and had to do some things that are not pleasant. He's shown a lot of class and a lot of fortitude in the way he's done it all."
Aldridge was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome — an abnormality that can cause a rapid heartbeat — as a rookie in 2007. He missed the final seven games of his first season while he was with Portland and also was held out 10 days in the preseason in 2011.
This latest bout with heart arrhythmia kept him out less than a week, a big relief to the five-time All-Star as he and the San Antonio chase Golden State for the top seed in the Western Conference. The 31-year-old went through a bevy of tests and consulted with several experts before being cleared to return, giving the Spurs a much-needed post presence and scorer.
"We're obviously thrilled about that, but more importantly thrilled that the doctors feel that he's fine in the sense that we're not putting him in danger or anything like that," Popovich said. "That's the most important part."
Aldridge told the team's staff that he "felt a little odd" during the second half of San Antonio's game in Oklahoma City on March 9, which led to the diagnosis. The Spurs announced last Friday that he would be out indefinitely, not taking any chances with the situation despite Aldridge's history of having little trouble returning to play after two previous episodes in his career.
"We are thankful that LaMarcus will be able to rejoin the team," Spurs GM RC Buford said in a statement issued by the team. "All of us have been impressed with the professionalism and grace he has shown in dealing with this difficult situation."
The Spurs desperately need Aldridge if they are going to leapfrog the scuffling Warriors for the top spot in the West. He is averaging 17.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game this season.
San Antonio trails Golden State, which is idle, by a half-game for the league's best record entering Wednesday's game.
San Antonio's pursuit of Golden State seemed to be in serious jeopardy last weekend, when Aldridge was shelved indefinitely and Kawhi Leonard was forced to sit out against the Warriors on Saturday night while going through the NBA's concussion protocol.
But the Spurs beat the Warriors after Golden State coach Steve Kerr rested Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala and Leonard returned on Monday after missing just the one game to lead San Antonio to a win over Atlanta.