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Caris LeVert and the culture of Brooklyn

Washington Wizards v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Here’s the relevant quote from Caris LeVert from his podcast with Ryan Ruocco and C.C. Sabathia —R2C2 on Players’ Tribune this week. He was asked how he felt about the Nets culture...

”Man, I love it,” said LeVert. “From day one, I saw the direction they were going in. they try to get young players, young good players, but also great people to build around and I think they’ve done a great job, especially with the limited draft picks we’ve had, to get guys like D’Angelo and Jahlil and Nik, to get them, those are three top 10 draft picks. and i think they’ve done a great job

And LeVert disclosed that from the time he came in for interviews (while still on crutches), he knew where he wanted to play ... because of that culture.

“When they brought me in for the draft process, that was one of the biggest things,” he said. “I wanted to come here. Man, they got everything. it’s a new facility, new coaches, I feel like they’re going in the right direction. they want to win. they’re here not just to be here. they want good players, they want the right people. they got everything going in the right direction.

Or as Sean Marks has said about that first meeting, “After his draft interview, we said, ‘That’s a Brooklyn Net, right there’. He epitomized everything we wanted.”

So far, so good. It’s not by accident that Ruocco and Sabathia chose LeVert for their hour-long podcast at HSS Training Center last week. He’s a rising star, a fan favorite and an articulate young man.

For nearly an hour, the three of them talked about everything from his game-day routine —eight hours of sleep, then an hour on the Normatec, then film— to his pre-game meal —pasta and chicken— to his favorite Brooklyn eatery — Chipotle “five times a week” — and his Welcome-to-the-NBA moment — “my first check — I go, ‘the taxes on this. Yo!’”

LeVert is indeed a cornerstone of the team in his second year, playing both guard positions and showing that with Russell and Jeremy Lin out, he can step in and step up his game. And the combination of Ruocco, the pro behind the mic, and Sabathia, the fellow jock, it was an entertaining hour.

LeVert talked a lot about the team dynamic and how it fits within the Nets culture. He noted that he and Russell spent a lot of time in the gym last summer, working out ... and bonding. He noted the synergy of the brick-and-mortar facility with its amenities and the team’s desire to get players, particularly young guys, to hit the court in the off-season.

“Everything you need,” LeVert said about HSS. “We’re in one of the best cities already and then when you get a training facility like this, you cant beat that. I was there all summer.”

The second year player talked as well as how the Nets use veterans to help the mostly young roster —10 players 25 or younger— deal with the intricacies of being young and in the NBA.

“It’s super important. Last year, it was ‘Foye boy.’ Randy Foye. He took us under his wing, me and Isaiah,” said LeVert. “DeMarre is the old head of the team now. He keeps it loose in the locker, Always keeping it ready.”

Those old heads are needed, he argued.

“Coming into the NBA, you can’t really prepare for that. It’s something you got to go into, to experience it yourself and when you got a big brother kinda telling you what to expect, kinda telling you what you’ll go through, just hearing his experiences, it’s a big thing for a young player.”

This year, his second, had a lot of ups and downs, starting with a 10-game slump he attributes to the anxiety of wanting to do well, then the transition to point guard. As Ruocco noted, the Nets always thought he could play the point. So did LeVert.

“Yeah, I look at myself as a guard, whether that be point guard, shooting guard. And actually when I was young, I was short, I was little. So I was a point guard. I was like 5’11”. So that was the only position I knew,” he noted.

“When I got to college, I had a growth spurt and moved off the ball, but I still had those same instincts, knew that position. I always had the confidence to play that position. It was just the opportunity. this year i had the opportunity to play the point. trying to make the most of it.”

Next, he hopes to improve his shooting off the dribble and cut down on turnovers in the motion offense. And he’s excited about some of his new teammates, citing Jahlil Okafor in particular. Others may have given up on the big guy (whose more than a year younger), but not LeVert. He’s excited about the possibilities.

“Absolutely. He’s still getting his rhythm. He hasn't played in like a year. Basketball is a rhythm game and he ain’t played in a long time. Once he gets his rhythm back, the sky’s the limit for him,” said an enthusiastic point guard.

As he progresses, LeVert hopes he can follow his late father’s advice. His father died suddenly (much like Okafor’s mother) when he was 15, but he remembers the advice he got.

“Stay even-keeled,” he recalled. “There’s going to be up’s; going to be down’s. Stay consistent with attitude, effort.”

Again, so far, so good.