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Caris LeVert returns from cancer surgery, starts in Pacers' win over Suns

The former Nets guard was back on the court less than two months after discovering he had renal cell carcinoma.

Caris LeVert records 13 points in return to action

An early-season blockbuster trade took a more meaningful turn for Caris LeVert. The physical required to complete the January trade that brought him to the Pacers revealed renal cell carcinoma of the kidney. LeVert credited the trade for potentially saving his life.

Following surgery and rehab, LeVert made a healthy return to the court to debut with his new team against the Phoenix Suns.

Pacers coach Nate Bjorkgren didn’t hold LeVert back, immediately inserting the 26-year-old into the starting lineup and stating pregame that he would not be under a minute restriction.

The move paid off, as LeVert put up 13 points and seven rebounds in 27 minutes in Indiana’s 122-111 win that snapped Phoenix’s five-game win streak. LeVert, who had not played an NBA game since Jan. 12, admitted he had “heavy legs” after the game, but was just happy to be back in action.

“A month-and-a-half ago, two months ago, I don’t even know if I knew I was going even going to be out here, especially this soon just with everything that happened,” LeVert said. “There’s definitely a level of gratefulness. Just happy to be on the court, man.”

Indiana acquired LeVert as a part of the four-team mega-trade that sent former Kia MVP James Harden from Houston to Brooklyn. He spent his first four 1/2 seasons with the Nets after the Pacers selected him in the first round of the 2016 NBA draft.

LeVert was expected to reinforce the Pacers’ wing rotation, which no longer boasts former All-Star Victor Oladipo (who was traded to Houston) or forward T.J. Warren, who is out indefinitely after having surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left foot.

After Saturday’s win, the Pacers (17-20) are in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, just half a game ahead of 11th-place Chicago for a play-in tournament spot.