Ed Davis, in your short time in Brooklyn who has impressed you the most?
“Probably the one guy who I haven’t seen play a lot is probably LeVert. I didn’t really know that he had that much stuff that he can do with the ball, his footwork and things like that.”
DeMarre Carroll, you’ve been here a little longer, would you agree?
“Caris, I think this is his year. I think this is a breakout year. Not to put pressure on him, but I’ve seen it every day. I’ve seen him work tirelessly in here.”
Jared Dudley, you’ve been around for 12 years, what do you think?
“I haven’t seen anyone guard him here in the last couple of weeks. He’s scoring at will, he’s athletic, when it comes to conditioning tests, he’s one of the fastest we’ve had here. I didn’t know he could handle the rock; his ball-handling is better than I thought it was. He can shoot off the dribble.”
Joe Harris, Shabazz Napier and Jarrett Allen said much the same thing ... although Allen put himself in same conversation.
Bottom line is, we know, and more importantly the Nets know, that LeVert has that proverbial “high ceiling” – whatever level of stardom you want to equate that with – for a long time and this could be the year he reaches it. It’s LeVert’s third season and he just turned 24. By this time next year, we’ll be talking about his contract year.
But now, Net teammates, even the new ones, are bearing witness to the star quality, one that would’ve been laughable two years ago when the Nets drafted him, just off crutches, following his third foot surgery.
How did LeVert handle the praise from his teammates? He played it cool, but with a hint more bravado than we’ve heard in the past.
“What’s my response to that?” he asked rhetorically before a slight pause to collect his thoughts at Monday’s Media Day. “I feel like everybody’s had a pretty good summer. But with it being my third year, I feel like it’s definitely my turn to take a big leap. It’s obviously good to hear from my teammates because I feel like I’ve put a lot of work in on and off the court. Mentally, physically, I feel like I’m ready to take that leap for sure.”
Just a hint more confidence, he said, was a big part of his game moving into year three.
“That’s another thing I felt like I took a huge step with,” LeVert said. “With that comes a lot of long hours. I think that’s how you build confidence, doing it over time and putting in a lot of work on your game.”
His teammates can verify firsthand that a lot of work has been put in.
“I haven’t really seen LeVert play that much,” offered Davis. “He definitely surprised me. He’s definitely one of those guys that I’m calling people like, ‘Ayo, he’s going to have a good year.’ I like his game.”
Dudley, who now enters his seventh team since his 2007-08 rookie campaign, spoke to LeVert’s growing star quality.
“That’s how you can tell a role player from someone who can be somewhat special is how are they with their ball-handling? Can he do pick-and-rolls? Can he pass off the pick-and-roll? And so, for one, he’s a scorer, he’s a prototypical 2-guard. Usually in year three or year four, you make that huge jump. Confidence wise, you hear D’Angelo (Russell) when he gives him the ball for him to score, when a point guard is instilling that in you, he’s instilling it in you because you’re capable and he’s seen you do it.”
Carroll added that his feeling stems from LeVert’s new maturity.
“I can point out so many things in his game, but I think just his maturity … he’s slowing down,” said Carroll. “A lot of you remember frantic Caris, falling all on the ground, but his body I think is maturing and he’s doing a great job of slowing down.”
LeVert later added that improving his lower body strength, balance and coordination has been of primary focus this off-season. (And he gave a shoutout to Dan Meehan, the Nets director of sports science, designing the strength and conditioning program that has helped him develop.)
We don’t know if he has “it”, but he has something. He is overlooked no more.
“In Milwaukee, when I was there we were a top seven or eight defense. At that time no one knew Khris Middleton. The first four games he had four DNP’s, no one knew how good he was. I look at someone like LeVert being that type of guy, where someone you don’t really know. From what I’ve seen so far, he’ll have a huge impact on this team.” Dudley remarked, appearing impressed in his glowing appreciation of CL Smoove.
There were rumors last weekend that if the Nets really wanted Jimmy Butler, they’d have to offer up LeVert. As one national writer present at Media Day remarked, “Caris LeVert is going nowhere.”