Nets vs. Bulls: Cue Caris LeVert for a Friday Night Return

Brooklyn guard expected to play for first time since November 12

"He's in."

With that, Nets coach Kenny Atkinson drew the Caris LeVert watch to a close, confirming that the Brooklyn swingman was ready to return when the Nets host the Chicago Bulls Friday night at Barclays Center.

LeVert last played on Nov. 12, when he suffered a dislocation of his right foot after landing on a drive to the rim in the final minute of the first half at Minnesota. He had a full practice with the Long Island Nets on Tuesday and practiced with the Nets on Thursday. Then it was decided he was ready to go.

"Our talk with our medical team, performance team, coaches," said Atkinson after Thursday's practice session. "How he recovered today and looked and feel like the build-up's sufficient. Most importantly, he's ready to go. He really came up to me, 'I'm ready.' That's the most important thing."

At the time of the injury, LeVert was Brooklyn's leading scorer with 18.4 points per game on 47.5 percent shooting, plus 4.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. He ended up missing Brooklyn's last 42 games, a stretch during which the Nets lost eight straight games to fall to 8-18, then followed with a seven-game winning streak that launched a 21-9 run that has the Nets at 29-27 going into Friday night's game.

Along the way, individual players have emerged and roles have shifted. Atkinson acknowledged an adjustment period is inevitable.

"I think it's on both of us," said Atkinson. "Because he's that impactful a player we'll have to adjust to him and he'll have to adjust to us. Because he's such a good guy, a team guy, I think it will be seamless. I think the most important thing is he brings energy, focus on the defensive side, his active self. Listen, I think we expect some bumps, like I said last night, we'll expect a few bumps, and that's OK. Looking long term with him. He's going to get back to the level he was playing at."

“I just tried to look at it, tried to take the positives from it, tried to get better in other areas," said LeVert. "I didn’t try to look at it negatively. Obviously it was tough being away from the game, especially with the team playing so well and not really contributing, especially after I felt like I had a great summer and preseason, things look. But like I said I just tried to find the positive in the situation and go from there. I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better, honestly. I worked on my body a lot and like I said I tried to stick to my routine, watching film, doing things like that.”

CRABBE RETURNS

Allen Crabbe returned one game ahead of Caris LeVert on Wednesday after battling knee soreness for nearly two months. Crabbe made his intial entry to the start the second quarter, quickly knocked down his first 3-point atttempt, and finished with five points and three assists in 13 minutes.

"He made that three, that dribble hand-off three and the crowd," said Atkinson. "It was great, the crowd went crazy. Our bench went crazy and it just gave us a real boost."

ROLLING IN THE REINFORCEMENTS

The Nets got Allen Crabbe back one day before the trade deadline and will welcome back Caris LeVert one day after. With Spencer Dinwiddie's return on the horizon, they're looking at these internal returns as their stretch run reinforcements.

"It's almost like we're signing these really good free agents for nothing," said Kenny Atkinson. "They're on our roster. We know what they can do. We know what they bring to the table. They've been in our program. The challenge for me obviously is to figure out the minutes. But these things always work themselves out. Luckily I have some experience with it now. It's not going to be easy. I think it will be a challenge, and that's a good challenge to have, that you have a lot of good players and you've got to find minutes for them."

HARRIS TO ALL-STAR WEEKEND

Joe Harris became the fourth Net headed for Charlotte for All-Star weekend with Tuesday's release of the Three-Point Contest participants. Harris will join Jarrett Allen and Rodions Kurucs, both playing in the Rising Stats game, and All-Star D'Angelo Russell.

"It gives you goosebumps, it gets you emotional," said Atkinson. "Yes, we want to improve and we want to win, but I think it’s good when guys get individual accolades like that. I think it helps the program. I think other guys in the league look and like, ‘Hey, come to Brooklyn and there’s opportunity there and you’ll develop.’ I think that’s part of it.

"But just Joe Harris, thinking of where he came from, the Cleveland thing and not being in the league basically and how he’s starting for us. He signed an excellent contract, and now, he’s with the elite shooters in the league in the three-point shooting contest, which I love to watch. It’s great, great for him and great for the organization."

DIALED IN ON DEFENSE

Kenny Atkinson described it as the typical ups and downs or ebbs and flows of a season. Sometimes the offense is sharp, and defense is down, sometimes the reverse. Wednesday night it was the offense's turn after nearly two weeks of the opposite.

Going back to Jan. 1, the Nets are fifth in the NBA in defensive rating (106.9) over 18 games.

"I do think the zone had something to do with it," said Atkinson. "I think mixing it in has helped. But it’s guys buying into what we’re doing. Like I said, there’s moments this season where your offense has struggled or your defense has struggled. Our habits are established right now. Guys really understand what we’re doing. I think getting (Treveon Graham) back has also been huge. Now you’ve got T.G., you’ve got Rondae (Hollis-Jefferson), you’ve got some real versatile defenders. Obviously, Rodi (Kurucs) with his length. So we’ve added some talented defensive players to the rotation. I think that’s helped, too."

ABOUT THE BULLS

The Bulls are 12-42 and in 13th place in the Eastern Conference. They've lost 16 of their last 18 games, and have lost all three of their meetings with the Nets this season, most recently 122-117 on Jan. 19. The Bulls are 29th in the NBA in points per game (102.1), last in offensive rating (102.3) and 24th in defensive rating (111.6). Zach LaVine leads the Bulls with 22.9 points per game. On Wednesday, the Bulls acquired Otto Porter Jr. from the Washington Wizards for Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker.

Brooklyn Nets Stat Leaders

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    W 137-89

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