Caris LeVert, who recorded three steals and four rebounds in nine minutes of play on his NBA debut Wednesday, is finally ‘in the mix’ —if not yet the rotation— when it comes to this Nets roster.
Many have wondered about where LeVert fits with the team that selected him 20th overall in the 2016 NBA draft, but as head coach Kenny Atkinson indicated just days ago, it’s a work-in-progress, but eventually LeVert’s versatility should buy him some minutes at point guard as well as shooting guard and small forward.
The former Michigan alum was just happy to be out there in an NBA-game, coming back from three surgeries in three years.
“It felt good, it was my first time playing in a long time, in an actual game,” he said after Friday’s practice. “The crowd was great as well, it was a great feeling. The rehab was pretty tough. I’ve been doing it since the draft. So it’s good to see all the hard work paying off. It was kind of frustrating at times but I always saw the end goal.”
In LeVert’s debut, the Nets took home a narrow 116-111 victory over the Denver Nuggets, improving to (6-15) on the year. Watching his guys struggle throughout the rehab process was difficult for LeVert, who at one point during the early days of the season said he was ‘a couple of weeks’ away from a return.
While he may have been ready in say, mid-November, as he may have had in mind, the Nets’ cautious approach could have kept LeVert out for an extended period of time.
“No one likes losing, especially losing big, I definitely wanted to be out there and help anyway I could,” LeVert said of the time missed. “Even though I’ve had a lot of injuries I never really thought about my foot when I was finally out there playing. I just worried about playing.”
LeVert’s appearance against Denver on Wednesday marked his first in-game action at any level since a brief stint on February 13, which lasted 11 minutes and ended with him realizing he would need surgery ... again. While out of action, LeVert’s been rehabbing, and he told reporters Friday he was able to elevate his conditioning, and continues to do so each day.
Interestingly enough, Jeremy Lin, who practiced for the first time in about a month on Friday, has become somewhat of a rehab partner to LeVert. The two played extensive one on one after practice, both in half court and full court, an exercise that lasted 30 minutes or so.
“Oh, he (Lin) looks really good. He’s still working with conditioning as well, same as me,” LeVert said. “We’re doing sort of the same things with rehab and conditioning and stuff. It’s always good to go through that type of stuff with another person.”
“The main thing we focused on in my rehab toward the end was conditioning,” he continued. “That’s something that’s not going to stop right now, it’s still an on-going thing. It was difficult (because) I wasn’t allowed to run all the time so I had to do like some biking stuff, some underwater stuff, some non-basketball stuff, so it was tough to stay focused on that. You have to put in more work than everyone else because you’ve been out for so long, it’s something that I’m used to now.”
LeVert and the Nets will continue to put in work as they’ll resume action on a two-game Texas road trip, starting in San Antonio on Saturday night, followed by a match-up with the Houston Rockets. How much time will be see? Hard to tell, but it won’t be long before he and Lin finally get time together in the Nets backcourt. It’s been a long time coming.