There have been several unpleasant surprises for the Brooklyn Nets (4-3) since training camp. Of course, it all started when we learned Kyrie Irving would not only miss home games due to vaccination status, but road games as well since the team wasn't interested in part-time players. Then we learned that James Harden was missing a bit of his burst and might also become the poster boy for NBA rule changes. It all left the Nets' head coach Steve Nash in a bit of a scramble.

Fortunately, one pleasant surprise so far this year has been Texas product LaMarcus Aldridge. His emergence has been a major bright spot. Paul Millsap has been in and out of the core rotation, and missed a game for personal reasons. Nic Claxton was playing inconsistently before he began dealing with a non-COVID illness which Nash suggested could sideline him for a week to ten days. Blake Griffin just can't buy a bucket, shooting 28.6 percent on the season.

So it's been LMA who has stepped up and secured the front-court for the Nets.

Rewind. Last season we got this report, per SNY's Ian Begley:

Hearts went out to the seven-time All-Star, who has made clear he loves the game so much that it really hurt to have to walk away so suddenly with an irregular heartbeat. But LMA consulted with medical professionals and his family before decideding to return to the NBA. Nets General Manager Sean Marks admitted he even tried to persuade the stretch big not to take the risk.

The team wanted to be sure Aldridge knew there was no pressure. But he has played great. Aldridge shot the lights out in Philadelphia, helping to spark a 16-1 fourth-quarter run and nabbing a comeback road victory over Joel Embiid and the Sixers.

He drained 10-of-12 from the field that game exploding for 23 total points for the Nets. Nights later, he broke out again versus the Pacers helping them steal another comeback win, this time at home when he shot 10-of-16 from the floor.

That was the night he became one of just 48 players ever to top 20,000 career points in the NBA. He joined teammates Kevin Durant and James Harden in that rarefied air.

After that feel-good moment, James Harden had some fun with him joining the 20k “club.”

Aldridge also shared a great story of how the milestone bucket transpired.

I knew,” Aldridge shared. “That’s why I was laughing after I did it cause the team, like the guys in the back, had told me every day how close I was, 16, then I had 6, then I needed 10 or whatever. I think Kev hit me on to two back-to-back jump shots. I think Patty (Mills), then Kev hit me then (Indiana) called timeout. I was sitting there with Kev and I was like ‘man I need one more bucket for 20k.’ And he said ‘I wanna pass it to you!’”

Aldridge represents a tale of redemption, getting back onto the court from a scary ailment. He offers some great locker room vibes for the Nets, as he's clearly a favorite among teammates. And he came up huge in at least two games they probably would have lost without his deadly midrange game.

With Kyrie Irving's absence looming over the team as a distraction and posing a rotational void, with Millsap, Claxton, and Griffin's inconsistency, they couldn't have asked for much more out of Aldridge so far. He's been the Nets' most pleasant surprise through seven games.