ESPN wouldn’t show highlights of the injury.
Players tweeted their best wishes.
Fans held their breath and cursed fortune.
Everybody thought the 24-year-old in the midst of a breakout year was done for the year, at the very least.
Then, the improbable happened. The injury wasn’t as bad as it looked and he returned... only three months later.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Caris LeVert.— Anthony Puccio (@APOOCH) February 9, 2019
“It almost didn’t feel real,” LeVert answers after his first game in three months, following one of the most gruesome looking injuries in sports.
He wouldn’t go into detail. He was just focused on the outcome of the game — a 125-106 loss to the 12-win Bulls.
“I don’t want to make it about me because I wish we would have won the game for sure, but that’s expected. We didn’t come back to just be there. We wanted to be better than before.”
Head coach Kenny Atkinson saw one good thing on Friday and it was his poster boy LeVert.
“If I had to take one positive from tonight that was a positive,” Atkinson said after one disappointing game. “I thought he looked good, looked athletic, he was athletic, came downhill like he does, [made] some passes. Obviously there were a few bumps here and there, but for the most part I think he was a plus-five on the sheet, so he had some positives tonight and played well.”
LeVert ended up finishing with 11 points, four assists and five steals in 15 minutes – the five steals tying a career-high, setting a Nets’ season high and the most any Net has wracked up in a game since he did it back in 2017.
His long wingspan forced Chicago to cough the ball up five times. He stayed low and was a presence in basically every play he was involved in. Offensively, he admitted fatigue played in a role in his shooting, but it didn’t stop him from executing. His ability to drive and finish with contact in the lane remains his forte.
“I prepared for it,” LeVert answered when he was asked about anticipating contact. “We put a lot of time in over the last couple of months so it was kind of expected for me.”
His performance? It’s to be expected in his eyes. He’s grateful to be where he is, hence the humble tone. But what mattered most to LeVert – which was most telling about him – is that he was genuinely disappointed in the loss. It’s like he was never gone.
He’s developed a winner’s attitude with a confidence hidden behind his professional demeanor. Part of the confidence comes from the sole fact that he’s been here before.
“Just being through foot injuries before, it definitely wasn’t new to me. Being away from the team in a season, definitely not new to me,” LeVert said the day before his big return. “Just tried to stay positive through everything, knowing there’s definitely a finish line, a goal in mind. I’m not going to be hurt forever; it’s a fixed amount of time. I’m still going to have a long career.”
“The way he attacked his rehab was phenomenal,” GM Sean Marks said about his comeback.
The return, of course, was somewhat of a shock for LeVert, as it was for all of us who watched the gruesome injury. Again: It almost didn’t feel real, somewhat a metaphor for the way Brooklyn’s season has gone.
“It went by kind of fast for me honestly, and even leading up to today’s game it just felt that three months went by kind of fast,” he said. “But like I said the first couple minutes I was kind of getting my feet wet, getting back into it, but then after that I felt like I was more comfortable.”
Jarrett Allen explains how he was happy to see him out there, but he knows it’s going to take time before LeVert is back to full force.
“He’s coming back to his old self, he’s still not totally there but you saw glimpses of it tonight,” said Jarrett Allen.
Don’t get it mixed: Jarrett isn’t dissing LeVert. He just calls it like he sees it.
“It didn’t feel like old Caris – that’s not how he’s going to be yet. But when he gets back to himself, he will be.”
Some think it will take him until next season, however watching him on Friday made it seem like he can do what he’s done his entire career: Prove people wrong. In this context, maybe he can recover and get back to regular form before we expect it.
It really doesn’t feel real that he’s back. But it sure was great to see.