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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says LaMarcus Aldridge has dealt with heart issue all year

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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.

Devin Booker drops 70 points for Suns in loss to Celtics (VIDEO)

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Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker is just 20 years old. He’s a League Pass favorite, and indeed he should be a favorite in Phoenix for years to come. On Friday, Booker dropped 70 points — yes, 70 — in a loss to the Boston Celtics.

Booker’s 70 points is the best outing of the season. It also made him the youngest player to ever reach 70 points.

His final stat line, as you might imagine, was ridiculous. Booker shot 21-of-40 from the field, going 4-of-11 on 3-pointers and a whopping 24-of-26 from the free-throw line. The Suns phenom also grabbed eight rebounds to go with six assists.

Despite the loss to Boston, 130-120, it’s still an incredible milestone for Phoenix and for Booker. There’s a bright spot out there for the Suns.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon skies to finish amazing alley-oop (VIDEO)

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Aaron Gordon may not have had the best dunk contest this year — apparently drones and dunks don’t mix well — but the guy can still get up and finish with the best in the league.

As he did on this alley-oop against Detroit.

Elfrid Payton had to throw a lob that would get over Andre Drummond, but how many guys in the league can get that high, reach back and finish that? Damn.

Former Hawk Pero Antic’s celebration accidentally punches teammate in face in Eruoleague (VIDEO)

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Former Atlanta Hawk Pero Antic is now playing for Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce, in case you were not aware.

Fenerbahce was facing Anadolu Efes in a EuroLeague game, it was tight late and former NBA player Ekpe Udoh was at the free throw line for Fenerbahce. He missed his second shot, but the rebound caromed out-of-bounds off an Anadolu Efes player. Antic was pumped.

Maybe a little too pumped.

Ouch.

That was Nikola Kalinic, by the way, the guy Antic now owes dinner to. Kalinic would like the dinner more than the hug and kiss he got from Antic right after the play.

Also, Anadolu Efes held on to win 80-77.

(Hat tip to Ball Don’t Lie.)

James Harden helped recruit Lou Williams to Houston

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The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.

While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”

Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”

We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.

Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.