Pritchard, Pacers Backing LeVert in Unexpected Circumstances

The Pacers made a major move earlier this week, agreeing in principle to a four-team deal that sent two-time All-Star Victor Oladipo to Houston while bringing 26-year-old guard Caris LeVert from Brooklyn to Indiana.

The deal was reported on Wednesday afternoon, but it wasn't officially completed until Saturday afternoon at 4:00 PM ET, roughly 72 hours later.

We found out shortly after why the trade took so long to complete, as the Pacers announced that an MRI during LeVert's physical with Indiana revealed a small mass on his left kidney.

It's standard procedure after a trade is agreed upon for each team involved to conduct physicals with the players they are receiving. In this case, Indiana's team physicians identified the mass, which spurred a series of conversations between LeVert, doctors, the Pacers' front office and ownership, and the three other teams involved in the deal.

In the end, the Pacers elected to go through with the trade, which also saw them receive cash considerations from Brooklyn and future second-round draft picks from each of Houston and Cleveland.

Pacers President Kevin Pritchard spoke to the media via Zoom on Saturday night shortly after news of LeVert's diagnosis was announced. Pritchard estimated the organization had nearly 50 conversations with doctors over the past few days, but ultimately decided they wanted to proceed with the deal and bring LeVert to Indiana.

"This organization's going to step up, help him get through this (and) get him on the court," Prichard said. "I'm super confident that we're going to have him on the court.

"It may not be today that he can help us, but we do believe that he can help us in the not-so-distant future. That's what got us comfortable. There's risk. We're willing to accept that risk. But there's also a human element."

The "human element" kept coming up in conversations between the Pacers' front office – which includes General Manager Chad Buchanan, Assistant General Manager Kelly Krauskopf, and Vice President of Basketball Operations Ted Wu – as well as team owner Herb Simon.

"Herb Simon, in his incredible fashion, in one call that was in the last 24 hours summed it up," Pritchard said. "He really humanized (the situation) and made it really about Caris and trying to do what's right for him. As soon as we found this out, all eyes were trying to help Caris and making sure that we planned this out.

"What makes me really proud is there (were) some moments where, yeah, we could have bowed out. We could have said no chance. But Herb (Simon) and Chad (Buchanan), they just stuck in there. They really said, 'Let's see this through.'"

According to the team's statement, LeVert will be out indefinitely while he undergoes further tests. Pritchard was limited in how much he could discuss LeVert's situation due to medical privacy laws, but did say that he believed that there is a chance that LeVert could play this season.

From a basketball perspective, LeVert is a player the Pacers have coveted for many years. Coincidentally, Indiana technically drafted him out of the University of Michigan with the 20th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, but the Pacers had already agreed to trade the pick to Brooklyn for Thaddeus Young.

Caris LeVert, Adam Silver at 2016 NBA Draft

Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images

Pritchard said Saturday that LeVert had impressed the front office during an interview at the pre-draft combine and the Pacers would have targeted him with their draft pick had they kept it.

Instead, LeVert went to the Nets, where he has blossomed into a gifted playmaker. He has averaged 18.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 4.8 assists in 57 games over the past two seasons. He scored a career-high 51 points in a win at Boston in March and dropped 43 in Memphis on Jan. 8.

The Pacers have attempted to engage with Brooklyn about acquiring LeVert recently, but knew that it was unlikely that they could get him without another team becoming involved.

That door opened earlier this week, when Rockets star James Harden essentially asked for a trade during his postgame media availability on Tuesday night. Knowing that Brooklyn was a likely destination for Harden, the Pacers quickly engaged the Rockets in conversations to see if they could find a way to bring LeVert to Indiana.

It was a difficult decision to part with Oladipo, who had blossomed in his four years with the organization, but the Pacers loved what they were getting in return.

"The thing that we noticed about Caris is he loves the game," Pritchard said. "Those players tend to get better. And he is right in his prime. Once we get this behind us, we feel like we got a player that, probably more than anything, can make plays for himself but also make plays for others. I mean, he's averaging six assists (per game) now.

"In my mind, with our new offense, with the way (head coach) Nate (Bjorkgren) plays and with our triggers and the way we try to get in the paint and make plays, you can give him the ball and we've seen it….he fills the stat book up."

Pritchard said he has had many conversations with LeVert over the past few days. The nature of the situation pushed those talks to a deeper place than it would have gone otherwise, and Pritchard came away from them raving about LeVert's character.

"I got two texts back from the doctors when they told him what happened," Pritchard said. "And they said they'd never seen a kid be so optimistic and ready to jump in here and get it taken care of.

"He's a very happy person. He believes in looking at things optimistically. He's going to attack this with a smile every day and he's going to beat it."