Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. L.A. Clippers' Al-Farouq Aminu (3) goes up for two past Atlanta Hawks' Al Horford (15) on Friday.
ATLANTA — Nobody ever said life in the NBA was going to be easy.
In his rookie season with the Los Angeles Clippers, Al-Farouq Aminu has experienced the usual highs and lows most first-year players go through as he made his return to his hometown for the Clippers game with the Atlanta Hawks on Friday at Philips Arena.
He experienced a little of each during the Clippers’ 101-100 loss to the Hawks, especially with the game decided the way it was — by a pair of Al Horford free throws with six-tenths of a second remaining.
“Every day, I’m learning,” the 2008 Norcross grad said.
What he’s mainly learning is that the NBA is not for the meek, as the ice packs on both knees and one ankle in the Clippers locker room following the game demonstrated.
“You’ve definitely got to take care of your body,” Aminu said. “And I’m trying to add to my game every day.”
It’s a much different world from when Aminu was helping Norcross to a Class AAAAA state title in high school, or his two college seasons at Wake Forest, including when he led the Atlantic Coast Conference in rebounding as a sophomore a year ago.
Friday night’s homecoming game looked like most others in Aminu’s rookie season so far.
The 6-foot-9, 215-pound forward saw 20 minutes, 39 seconds of action on the night, finishing with nine points, four rebounds, a blocked shot, a steal and two turnovers.
Those numbers are very much in line with his season averages — 6.5 points and 3.4 rebounds in roughly 17 minutes per night.
And like his season, Friday’s game had plenty of peaks and valleys.
There were some rough stretches — like being beaten by Hawks veterans Jamal Crawford and Marvin Williams for layups on the defensive end, plus being on the floor for much of the 26-4 run that vaulted Atlanta into the lead for good.
But there were also plenty of flashes of the type of talent that prompted the Clippers to select him with the No. 8 overall pick in last year’s NBA Draft.
His best moments were a contested 3-pointer with 7:36 to play, followed by a conventional three-point play in transition on the Clippers’ next possession.
That sequence helped spark a 22-7 run that vaulted Los Angeles back into the lead late in the fourth quarter before the Hawks rallied to win.
“I guess it was, kind of, sort of,” Aminu said when asked about the parallels between Friday’s game and his overall season. “I’m just learning my own role and tying to get the max out of it.”
That isn’t always easy when you’re trying to battle established stars like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony on a night in and night out basis, though he knows he can’t be in awe of any opponents.
And as many adjustments — physical and mental — as he’s found himself having to make in his game this season, other adjustments are even more on his mind.
“It’s more off the court stuff than on the court,” Aminu said. “You’ve just got to come in every day and put your work in. And it’s different things. But the team is like your family.”
As much of a family atmosphere as he’s finding with the Clippers, it is his actual family which he says has been the most important factor to making a strong adjustment to the NBA.
“My mom and my brother (former Georgia Tech post Alade Aminu) are out there with me (in Los Angeles),” Aminu said. “That makes it a lot easier when you’ve got someone there for you, especially my big brother.”
Of course, being a rookie in the NBA means having to prove yourself every night.