Those who know Caris LeVert understand the 22-year-old is ready for the big leagues, despite a few bumps in the road during his journey to the NBA.
Before Wednesday, he hasn’t played since December 30 then underwent foot reconstruction surgery in March. Dr. Martin O’Malley, the Nets foot-and-ankle specialist, took a piece of his hip bone and grafted it on to his left foot. It was his third foot surgery in 22 months, but O’Malley assured LeVert this one would work.
NetsDaily spoke with him after Wednesday’s game
"I feel like I've put in a lot of work so I'm more than confident in my foot. This summer, this fall and leading up to this point leading up to my rehab, so I just trusted that I didn't really think about the injury at all. They've been great the whole time (the medical staff) They've been pushing me and even now — it's not over yet just because I'm playing. They deserve a lot of credit for pushing me everyday."
The 22-year-old from Pickering, Ohio, made his NBA debut on Wednesday, December 7th against the Denver Nuggets. He had missed summer league, training camp and preseason and 19 regular season games. He impressed fans with his length, speed and versatility. He showed a capability to play down low and dribble the ball up the court at a fast pace. In nine minutes, he grabbed four rebounds and three steals.
"My last healthy game was December 30, which is almost a year. It felt really good to get out there," LeVert said with a smile.
So, It would be two weeks short of a year since LeVert went down with stress fracture of his left foot that night after an impressive start to his senior year. His surgery took place at the Hospital for Special Surgery. After a long and concentrated rehab, LeVert was finally ready to play a quarter of the way into his rookie season.
Asked about overcoming adversity, the 6’7” guard-forward was humble and attributed his resilience to how he was raised and what his parents taught him.
"My parents really preached resilience. They preached that not everything is going to be perfect. Sometimes in life, bad stuff happens but you just gotta keep pushing forward,” LeVert told NetsDaily. “Not everything is going to be perfect. Everybody goes through things growing up that forces them to have resiliency. Growing up with a younger brother, stuff happens and you gotta be there to step up."
It all goes hand-in-hand in the open letter he wrote to NBA GM’s on The Players Tribune back in June. Here's an excerpt, noting how the early death of his father had been a far bigger challenge than his foot injury.
“A foot injury? A walking boot? That’s not going to hold me down. After everything I’ve been through, I’m well-equipped to overcome challenges, believe me. Actually, wait, don’t believe me. Give me a few more minutes, and let me convince you.”
It’s easy to see why somebody like Sean Marks would take a player like Caris LeVert. Marks said from day one that he wants character guys to help form the culture. Marks traded Thaddeus Young for the 20th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. DraftExpress had him projected at No. 50. None of the mock drafts even had him in the first round.
“His diligence, his work ethic, his character – all the stuff that we believed in when we drafted him has shown,” Kenny Atkinson told reporters when LeVert was first activated.
Clearly they wanted him. And now it’s time for the rookie to take off and convince everybody why he’s ready. For those with the Nets, his work ethic did the convincing for him.
“He was fantastic,” Brook Lopez said after the game. “You guys haven’t seen the work he’s put in. He’s been working for months for that moment. So it was great to see him out there. He brought us great minutes. I was so happy to see him out there.”
So were Nets fans.