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Caris LeVert on going for title THIS year: ‘That’s the goal’

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2019 NBA Draft Photo by Alex Nahorniak-Svenski/NBAE via Getty Images

Caris LeVert says the addition of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan changes everything and that includes going for it all ... this season.

“That’s the goal,” he told Bill Bender of Sporting News. “ ”When you get guys like KD, Kyrie and DeAndre, expectations rise. We’re looking forward to that. We’ve been working for that. I think everybody loves playing on a big stage. We’re definitely looking forward to this year and the challenges it’s going to bring.”

LeVert didn’t speak to the issue of KD being out all or part of the 2019-20 season. Instead, he spoke about expectations in general. LeVert told Bender how he reacted when he pulled up Instagram to see Durant confirming news that he’’d be joining Brooklyn.

He jumped off the couch.

”That’s news that changes your perspective on things,” he said. “I knew it was in the works but didn’t know it was official. When I found out I was really happy.”

LeVert spoke as well about his reaction to the Nets decision to sign him to a three-year, $52.5 million extension last week.

“It felt gratifying with all the work I’ve put in since I was a kid, but I think for me I have a lot more work to do,” LeVert told SN. “People are excited for me, but at the same time I feel like I still have that much work to do because I want to be up there with the top players in the league.”

The 25-year-old (who agreed to sign his new deal on his birthday) gave a lot of credit to the Nets performance team. He missed two and a half months after dislocating his foot in November. Although the injury could have been a lot worse, the rehab, he told Bender, was not easy.

“That’s all credit due to God and the training staff,” LeVert said. “They pushed me every single day. Rehab was really, really tough. That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. We just pushed every single day. We did two-a-days and three-a-days. It all paid off in the end.”

By the playoffs, LeVert was back to being the Nets best player. In the five-game series vs. Philly, the Michigan product averaged 21 points, 4.6 rebounds and shot 49.6 overall and 46.2 from deep.

Bender caught up with LeVert at his training camp for local kids in Pickering, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus.

“Wherever you come up from, that definitely prepares you for the next stage in the life,” LeVert said of his own experiences as a youth.

LeVert wasn’t the only young Net —and F.O.K., Friend of Kevin— who spoke this week with the media. Taurean Prince, who’s also 25 (and was taken eight spots ahead of LeVert) talked with David Yapkowitz of Basketball Insiders about his perspective on the new season ... and playing with the Nets new superstars. The Nets open training camp in 25 days.

Prince said once the Nets made their big moves, he could see a team capable of playing at a high level for years to come.

“It’s another great opportunity, it’s more eyes,” Prince told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a great chance to go to the playoffs for as long as we want. To play basketball at the highest level against the highest competition.”

Unlike LeVert, Prince arrived in Brooklyn via a trade, one that sent Allen Crabbe and two first rounders to the Hawks for him and a second rounder. The move gave the Nets more cap space, but also a 6’8” forward who can hit the three and play some D. With Wilson Chandler’s suspension, the Nets are likely to rely a lot more on Prince —and LeVert— at the 3 and the 4.

“It was a bittersweet situation, just because Atlanta is such a great organization,” Prince told Yapkowitz. “But I knew I was going to another great organization so it kind of worked out well for me.”

Asked what he brings to the Nets, Prince was ready.

“Versatility, great leadership and great character. I’m someone who wants to win more than they want to score,” Prince said. “My big thing is getting to the playoffs and being able to play in those type of opportunities and environment.”