Kenny Atkinson didn't feel the need to soft-pedal things, temper the quote, or keep expectations low.
"First two days of training camp he's been fantastic quite honestly," said Atkinson. "I'm going to call it like it is."
The subject in question was Caris LeVert, the third-year guard who seems primed for that next-level jump in 2018-19. It was the second rave review for LeVert in two days, with the first coming from Nets newcomer Ed Davis, who called out LeVert as a teammate who really impressed him during the first day of training camp on Monday.
Joe Harris, who arrived in Brooklyn at the same time as LeVert in the summer of 2016, is on board too.
"He's very professional with his approach," said Harris. "He’s in, he’s putting in his work in the morning, he’s coming back in the evening putting in more work, and then it’s reflected when we play. I think you add just a couple more years under your belt, the confidence that starts to come with that. He’s kind of grown into his body. He’s always been a great athlete but now he’s putting everything together. And you really see it."
We've already seen LeVert take one step forward last season. Foot surgery had led to a drop in the draft in 2016, making him available to the Nets at No. 20 as part of a trade with Indiana, and also cut into his rookie season, where he played 57 games.
In year two, LeVert's scoring average jumped to 12.1 and his assists to 4.2 per game. He also improved his 3-point shooting, knocking down just a shade under 35 percent at 34.7. Still rangy at 6-foot-7, LeVert put a focus on adding strength over the summer.
"Trying to think outside the box, train a little different than I have in the past," said LeVert of his approach to this past offseason. "With the injuries, I haven’t been able to do everything I wanted to do with lower body strength, but I was able to do that this summer and it’s paying off."
He's also added some mental training to the routine, meditating several times a day and working on visualization to envision positive plays.
It's LeVert's versatility that opens up the big possibilities. With injuries at the point guard spot last year, he moved into backup role at the spot and expanded his playmaking skills. He's got the size to range across wing positions and the length and athleticism to be a disruptive defender.
It all fits in with the way Atkinson wants the Nets to play, with multiple ball-handlers on the floor and the capability to slide across positions. LeVert caught Davis' attention on Monday with what Davis called some deceptive "herky-jerky" moves. He worked over the summer with assistant coach Jacque Vaughn to turn those twisting plays into finished forays to the rim. "The main thing we focused on was probably balance for my shooting and just confidence in shooting the shots I practice every single day," said LeVert. "I think that’s really helped me a lot this summer. Hopefully, it translates into the game."