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For Atkinson, an afternoon of good news, bad news

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NBA: Preseason-Brooklyn Nets at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

What do you want first, the good news or bad news?

If you answered bad news, then you’re in luck.

Unfortunately for Brooklyn Nets fans, there’s still no timetable for Jeremy Lin’s return, per head coach Kenny Atkinson. Lin has been out for eight games since an abrupt hamstring injury sidelined him, and there’s no immediate return in sight. However, he did work out this afternoon, for 45 minutes, taking jumpers at about 80% speed and running the floor finishing with lay-ups after Nets practice.

“I think with all of us, we’re super focused on the long term approach,” coach Atkinson said of the recovering Lin who averaged 15.0 points and 6.2 assists in five regular season outings as a Net. “I know from a coaching standpoint I prefer to take a cautious approach and I know my performance team agrees with that, (general manager) Sean (Marks) does and this organization that’s the way we are. We want to make sure he progresses the right way and when he returns to play, he’s ready to go.”

Now for that good news.

Caris LeVert is back! Or well, here, considering he hasn’t yet played in a Net uniform after being sidelined with a severe foot injury. But today, the 2016 Nets first round pick fully practiced for the first time, and could return to basketball very soon, at a time where the Nets really need it.

“It felt really good you know? It’s been a long time since I’ve practiced full-go, I competed in a lot of drills, so it was a great experience for me,” a smiley, wide-eyed LeVert said after his first full practice. “All the work that I put in this summer, and all the extra conditioning, it really paid off. Hopefully it’ll pay off going forward now in the season.”

At barely 22 years old, LeVert has already had three major foot procedures in three years, which is why questions arose immediately after the Nets selected the Michigan man on Draft Night. The consensus was that the 6-foot-7 wingman, who played both guard spots and small forward in college, was a sure fire lottery pick with top-10 talent ... if healthy. In fact, he was the highest rated player on the Nets’ big board when the time came to pick at 20.

“I think my [shooting] form held up, but as far as going into the drills, my legs weren’t into it, but today it felt great,” LeVert said. “My wind is back and my legs felt good in the drills, so it’s felt good so far.”

“A couple out-of-bounds plays I need to get more reps with, but as far as the offensive system, I think I’m pretty good with that,” LeVert said.

LeVert insists that he’s made a full recovery, saying he doesn’t feel or notice anything wrong with his foot.

“The performance staff has done a great job building up the other parts of my leg as well, the surgeries held up, I feel really good right now,” he said. “I was never tentative coming back. My mindset was always to focus on the game, don’t focus on the foot. Whatever happens, happens, just leave it in God’s hands, I was never one to be intimidated about that.”

LeVert had been struggling with injuries throughout the course of his last two seasons at Michigan. In fact, LeVert had missed about a month and a half of action between December 30, 2015 and February 13, 2016, where he played what was his last game of his four-year collegiate career.

Upon LeVert’s return, which was against Purdue, the Michigan faithful awarded the now Net wing to a standing ovation. LeVert recorded five rebounds in 11 minutes, and hasn’t played an official game since, but much to the pleasure of Net fans, he’s getting there, and is looking to assist in any way possible.

“Just whatever the team needs honestly. I just want to come in and be competitive, share the ball, play both ends of the floor, hopefully do whatever it takes to get us some wins,” the versatile LeVert said.

“(Defense is) one area we’re already focusing on right now when we watch film and coach Kenny really keyed in on that. That’s been one of our problems, one on one defense hasn’t been great, so I’ll just try to bring that to the table.

“As far as the offensive system I think I’m pretty good with that. The system is pretty similar to Michigan’s system just with the spacing and everything. It’s not going to be too much of a problem.”

As we’ve previously noted, LeVert’s procedure was done Dr. Martin O’Malley, who’s operated on Kevin Durant, Dez Bryant, Brook Lopez and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in the past. O’Malley, a foot/ankle specialist, is a member of the Nets medical staff.

“Everybody’s been great, specifically, Rondae and Brook, they both had the same surgeon working on different parts of them,” LeVert said. “Rondae with his ankle and Brook with his foot (as Rondae comically yells ‘I was helping him’ while taking jumpers) but both of them have reached out and stuff like that.”

Atkinson, like the rest of us, are eager to see what LeVert brings and how his game will translate at the NBA level.

“Kind of like you guys, I’m getting to know his game,” said the Net head coach. “To see him in practice, to see him start scrimmaging, to see him slowly start to get minutes and then we can start defining who he is. I think in the draft it was wing defender, three-point shooter, kind of a 3-and-D guy. I do think (he can help on defense), he’s got to get stronger, he knows that – but he’s got the competitiveness, he’s got the length, he’s got the versatility to be a good defender. That’s important in this league.”

While often saying that the Nets plan on utilizing the D-League as a way to further develop talent in the organization —which would make sense for LeVert for an abundance of reasons— Atkinson says the plan is for LeVert to play in the NBA, at least to start things off.

“I think in the beginning the idea is to kind of keep him with us, and with that being said, during the year if there’s an opportunity to get him more minutes or get him in a situation where he can get more reps, we’re definitely open to that (sending him to the D League),” Atkinson said. “The idea is to keep him with us and keep him with our performance team and give him some minutes when we can. If we don’t feel like there’s enough minutes for him we can use our D-League.”

Of course, Atkinson’s most pressing issue is neither Lin nor LeVert. It’s facing Boston on Wednesday.