Caris LeVert was having himself a good summer night. He just hosted an event for his foundation called the “22 Initiative” and everybody was having a good time, from the children, to the members of his agency up to some of his friends in his inner circle.
LeVert is a mild-mannered guy. That isn’t to say he isn’t passionate – actually quite the opposite. It’s just that the 24-year-old isn’t big into showing his cards at the table. He doesn’t post much on social media – if at all. There are no videos of him in the gym, because he’d rather keep it low key. Not that there’s anything wrong with posting on social media, but he possesses the mentality of one who approaches fame in his own way, at his own speed.
He possesses everything the Brooklyn Nets are all about. After all, he was Sean Marks’ first pick, the first player Kenny Atkinson’s got to develop, using their vision.
And like everybody who wants to become great at their craft, LeVert uses his past experience to find ways to improve.
“I want to improve my game all-around [this summer]. I want to be more efficient and be the best player I can be,” he told NetsDaily. “This past season we made the playoffs and I don’t want to say it exposes your weakness -- but when you lose, it really reminds you of what you need to work on in the offseason. With all the marbles on the line, you ask ‘What was I good at, what was I not good at and what do I need to get better at?’ I think the playoffs were huge for our team, me individually, and honestly like I said, I’m trying to work on everything I possibly can this summer.”
This is a big reason why the idea of tanking this past season would’ve been a nightmare for a team like the Nets – the same people who have preached improvement and hard work. The Nets, owning their own first-round pick for the first time in Marks’ tenure, could’ve easily tanked for Zion. In fact, on December 8, they and the Knicks had the same record, 8-18.
I mention that and LeVert insists that was never part of the conversation. Ever.
“That’s not what we all believe in,” he told NetsDaily. “Tanking was never a thought. Guys got hurt, I got hurt, and it was ‘alright, next man up. Who’s the next man up? Who’s going to get help us get past this?’ We won seven games in a row and went on that crazy run [20 of 26] and that’s a credit to the staff and credit to our team.”
LeVert uttered those words —sounding very much like a leader— while hosting an event where he is using his fame to give back to the community. He remembers how challenging things can be for those dealing with adversity.
So, his “22 Initiative” is very much about academics, unexpected life changes like personal tragedy or just simply being there ... having someone to steer you in the right direction. On Tuesday night, he hosted a bowling night just to meet the kids in the program have a good time....
@CarisLeVert and the 22 Initiative enjoying a little weeknight out at Bowlmor! pic.twitter.com/S9az0ojmvX— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) June 11, 2019
... and make fun of a reporter in street clothes.
This was well-deserved after my trash talk. Smh @CarisLeVert #22initiative pic.twitter.com/09p4E0mA2i— Anthony Puccio (@APOOCH) June 12, 2019
LeVert’s dealt with his own adversity in the past, having lost his father at 15-years-old, learning about his mother’s diagnosis for Multiple Sclerosis, and suffering severe injuries in college and most recently the NBA – all things that can knock a person down and prevent them from chasing their dreams. Responding to all that checks off the “high character” box Brooklyn seeks out in the talent they bring in. Leadership is an added bonus.
“Caris is phenomenal, man. He’s always been that way since the day I met him,” said Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, teammate and good friend. “He’s just been true to himself and true to what he believes in. Caris is a believer in faith and in God… I feel like everything he’s gone through is meant for him in the sense that he’s prepared. You gotta love him, comes through with a great smile and a great personality, what more could you say or what more could you want from a person?”
The focus around the Nets this summer hasn’t been so much about who’s on the Nets. It’s been about the guys who might become Nets.
I ask if it’s a distraction. LeVert denies it.
“We don’t hear anything. We’re in the gym everyday… whatever happens, happens. We’re all just in the gym trying to get better. Same old, same old.”
Sounds like a Net tutored by Marks and Atkinson. Say little. Reveal little. But always be respectful.
One drum has been beaten to death, but it’s worth noting the relationship between coveted free agent Kevin Durant and LeVert.
LeVert trained with Kevin Durant back in the summer of 2017. The two have been close since LeVert underwent a third surgery on his foot while at Michigan. The procedure was performed by Dr. Martin O’Malley, the same doctor who had handled the surgery on Durant in 2015.
“Once Doc finishes with you, you’ll be like brand new,” Durant told LeVert then.
Sources told NetsDaily in April that Durant is intrigued by the idea of playing with LeVert in Brooklyn, and the 24-year-old’s stellar play in the postseason only helped the case. Now, Durant is back in New York City seeing Dr. O’Malley about his most recent Achilles injury, a serious setback.
“Obviously you hate to see anybody go through an injury like that,” LeVert told NetsDaily. “He put a lot on the line to come back and play especially a competitor like KD, you hate to see that. I’m wishing him the best in his recovery.”
Remember LeVert’s words, “Whatever happens, happens” when asked about free agency. It wasn’t said in a cryptic way, but it’s the truth. Anything can happen at any time. The Nets are in a position to get big free agents and/or make a splash trade, specifically for Anthony Davis.
However, sources say that while the Nets are engaged in talks with New Orleans, they’re reluctant to give away their young, foundation pieces. That would be Caris LeVert himself. Furthermore, NetsDaily learned that despite Durant’s injury, the Nets are expected to continue their pursuit of KD next month.
There’s no saying what will happen, but LeVert is about as close to untouchable as it’ll get on this Nets’ team. “Whatever happens, happens” should not pertain to LeVert as he epitomizes everything the Nets want to be about.