The return of Caris LeVert is getting closer as the fourth-year guard took part in practices with the Brooklyn Nets this week and spoke with the media after shootaround on Thursday morning, prior to that night’s game against the New York Knicks.
“I think we’re still building with the contact practice,” said head coach Kenny Atkinson after Friday’s practice session at HSS Training Center. “I don’t have a number of practices. I think once the performance team is satisfied with what they see. I think a part of that is, he can get through the practice, what is that recovery like? We’re still in the process. Really good news, he’s integrating himself into contact practices. Like I said, that bodes well for hopefully a return soon.”
LeVert last played in Brooklyn’s ninth game of the season in Phoenix on Nov. 10. He underwent surgery later that week to repair ligament damage in his right thumb. Prior to the injury, LeVert was averaging career highs of 16.8 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, plus 4.0 assists in 31.6 minutes per game.
LeVert is traveling with the team on the three-game road trip that begins with Saturday night’s game in Houston before going on to Minnesota and Dallas, but has been ruled out for Saturday night’s game. As he ramps up his preparation, he’s looking forward to getting back on the court and getting reacclimated to the court.
“I think just getting my legs up under me,” said LeVert. “I was out about a month, a month-and-a-half or so – I don’t really know how long it was – but just getting my rhythm, getting my legs back.”
Through the season’s first two weeks, the Nets had a top-10 offensive rating, but since Nov. 16 have been playing without both LeVert and Kyrie Irving. Spencer Dinwiddie has stepped into the starting lineup and averaged 26.0 points per game over the last 19 games, 10th in the NBA in that span. But even as the Nets have posted a 12-7 record in that stretch, the team’s offensive production has dropped, and point guard depth has been an issue.
LeVert’s return will be a significant boost in those areas.
“We all know how dynamic Caris is,” said Dinwiddie. “We all know he’s supposed to be our second All-Star. We all know what he brings to the table, the playoffs that he had, the start to the season he had last year. We just want him to be him. Just come in, be you. Be that guy. Be the focal point offensively for us as long as obviously Kyrie’s out, and do what makes you special.”
With Dinwiddie drawing All-Star chatter and Irving’s eventual return also part of the equation, the backcourt mix is something to be managed once LeVert is ready to go again.
“I expect him to integrate kind of little by little,” said Atkinson. “So we’ll see what that looks like. Not exactly sure I know what the minutes look like that first game. I think we have to work it out with the rotation.”
“We haven’t really talked too much about it,” said LeVert. “But me and Spencer have great chemistry on the court. Obviously, he’s playing at an All-Star level right now, so when I go back probably it’s just going to be to help him get off in any way and then just help the team.”