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Caris LeVert on coming off bench: ‘I am looking forward to that challenge’

Chicago Bulls v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

If you had to choose three themes that mark the training camp experience, they would be flexibility, versatility and sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice. And it you had to choose a player that best personifies those themes, it is Caris LeVert.

The 6’6” wing knows that he will have to provide all of those for the Nets to play and win at a high level. Particularly sacrifice.

Coming off an impressive (25/7/5) run in the “bubble,” being the Nets main guy, his role heading into the 2020-21 season remains up in the air. Although his role is uncertain, the possibility that he could come off the bench is rising and he says he’s ready to take on that challenge all the while focusing on the positives.

“There are small minor adjustments but I think there are positives coming off the bench as well,” LeVert said Tuesday. “You get a chance to examine the game from a different perspective. See how the defense is playing certain actions, see how they are going with ball screens, transition, and things like that. See which guys have it going so when you get in the game, you make that adjustment and give energy where it is needed and things like that.

“I try to look at each situation and try to find a positive out of each one so I am looking forward to that challenge if that is what it is going to be. If not, we will adjust accordingly. For me, it is about whatever happens happens. I am just excited to play basketball. It is a blessing.”

So, LeVert says, the goal is focused around winning ... whether he starts or does come off the bench.

“For me, I am just excited to get out there and contribute to wins in any way possible. If that is starting or coming off the bench, Steve and I will talk more about it. I think everyone’s main goal is winning basketball games and putting us in the position to do so.”

The 26-year-old believes his versatile game, having the ability to play on or off the ball, makes him comfortable with either role.

“I feel like with my game, I am versatile and I can play with the ball or without the ball,” LeVert said. “Start - come off the bench or whatever it may be, I feel like I can adjust. I can play pretty much any role I am put in.

Steve Nash has talked about LeVert becoming the Nets’ Manu Ginobili who like LeVert had the skills to start but also the mentality to sacrifice for the good of the team.

“Still working through it,” Nash said of his rotations Sunday. “Caris is a starter. Will he start for us? I’m not sure yet. He’s so good with the ball in his hands that there’s a case to be made that he plays that (Manu) Ginobili role.”

Of course, Ginobili is a future Hall of Famer and LeVert isn’t the first great player who’s been described as the “next Manu.” It’s a high bar. Ginobili after all was a four-time NBA champion, an Olympic gold medal winner and Sixth Man of the Year.

In the short term, Nash said LeVert will be available Friday. LeVert missed Sunday’s preseason game with knee soreness, aka patella cuntusion.

When asked about his knee issue, LeVert said it just comes with playing basketball. Minor things occur but he feels good and is ready to go.

“It was just a small type of thing,” Levert said. “That comes with playing basketball like nicks and bumps and things like that but I feel good right now. I am ready to go.”

“The knee is good and I feel good,” he added. “Excited about starting the season. I feel like we did a good job last game and can’t wait to get out there and contribute.”

Steve Nash believed LeVert looked great in Wednesday’s practice. He hopes the injury is behind them and the team can progress with a healthy LeVert.

“He looked great,” Nash said about LeVert. “He played very well. No pain so hopefully that is behind us so he can resume full function. He played very well today.”

It is clear LeVert is a starting caliber player but as mentioned before, sacrifice is and will be needed throughout the season. Take it from Joe Harris - depth is a positive for any team to have in the NBA and players should not look at coming off the bench as a negative.

“I think we are really fortunate to have the depth that we have,” Harris said. “You look at our second unit and a lot of those guys are arguably starters on a number of teams across this league. To have somebody, whether it is Caris or whoever it is, come in off the bench, I don’t think you should look at it as a negative.

“In this league right now, the best teams have depth. They all have excellent benches and you need that, especially once the postseason comes around and once big games come around, depth is an important factor in being an elite team. That is what we are trying to get,” he added.

“We want a second unit to not take a dip. When that first unit is rolling, the second unit has to come in and just keep the momentum and the pace going as well.”