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Caris LeVert is ready to be “next man up”

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NBA: Preseason-New York Knicks at Brooklyn Nets Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Kenny Atkinson wouldn’t commit to a new starter to replace Jeremy Lin, but it seems likely that Caris LeVert is the next man up in a bigger role.

Lin was an on and off-court leader and arguably one of the most important pieces in this Brooklyn mix. However, his teammates are confident they can still find the fit. One player who’s going to gain a bigger role, potentially a starter’s role, is LeVert. He and D’Angelo Russell who grew up along a 200-mile stretch of 1-71 in the Midwest added even more chemistry this off-season. They are the backcourt for the future, LeVert who just turned 23 and Russell, all of 21.

“Yeah I think so,” LeVert replied when he was asked about the possibility of growing into a dual role with Russell. “Obviously we’re both young guys, guys that are still trying to find their way in this league. So for us to grow together is huge, for us, for the team, for the organization.”

LeVert understands he has to step up in order to do so, along with the rest of the team.

“That was kind of the first thing that he talked about, was how sad everyone was about Jeremy’s injury but we got to step up,” said LeVert about the plane ride back from Indianapolis. “The season is not over by any stretch of the imagination. It’s the first game of the season and we got a lot of guys that can step up in his position. But like I said it sucks to lose somebody like that.”

The Nets do have more depth than last year, as Lin assured Kenny Atkinson so LeVert and the rest understand this isn’t going to be like last season when Lin and Greivis Vasquez went down, leaving the Nets with two rookies, Isaiah Whitehead and Yogi Ferrell.

“Last year is a different story than this year. Like you said, we have a couple of more guys this year. I mean it sucks losing a guy with that much talent , that much leadership, that much experience. But like I said it’s next man up. We got to figure out how to do it,” said LeVert, whose maturity was something that attracted Sean Marks and the Nets brain trust.

“It’s a blow to our team but like I said I think we got a lot of guys who can step up in his position. So we’re trying to look at that, see what guys can step up and turn a negative into a positive. Like I said we got a lot of guards, so we’re going to try to fill that void in any way we can.”

Still, LeVert understands how severe the loss is despite the guys keeping their heads up and staying optimistic. He referred to Lin as his “big brother,” a phase that isn’t uncommon from this Nets team. They see each other as brothers, as family.

“I mean he’s a big brother to me. As a lot of guys on the team, he’s a big brother to a lot of our guys. He has a lot of great advice, a lot of experience. He’s someone I’d definitely lean upon throughout the season...

“We got to step up for him and that’s what he would want for us, that’s what he wants for us to do. I mean we just got to step up. Next man up.”

Next man up: Caris LeVert. He’s saying it, he knows it, thus he ought to be ready to make an impact quicker than most expected.