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Tired of trade rumors, Caris LeVert looks forward to playing with ‘Kev and Ky’

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Portland Trail Blazers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images

Caris LeVert isn’t worried about trade rumors — ”part of the business.” Nor does he think much of those who say his game is limited — “I love playing off the ball.” Instead, the fourth year pro is looking forward to the season and playing with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, “Kev and Ky,” as he calls them.

As it stands, with trade rumors now a still pool, LeVert is the Nets “third star” behind the superstar duo. The 26-year-old spoke about how he has talked with the duo about his role and how to complement them but the main thing is they want him to be aggressive ... and be Caris LeVert.

“I mean, we’ve talked,” LeVert told reporters in a virtual conference call. “We talked countless times just about me being myself. Me being aggressive, picking my spots, and there will be a lot of opportunities for myself along with other guys to be aggressive with so much attention on Kevin and Kyrie. Just picking our spots and being aggressive. Trusting the work we’ve put in throughout the summer.”

Not only has the Nets rising star talked with the duo. He worked out with them in Los Angeles this off-season and trained with Irving back in the New York area. He believes Durant and Irving both look like the Durant and Irving everyone is used to seeing on the NBA hardwood.

In addition, like almost every NBA fan and player, LeVert is happy to see Durant return to the NBA. He believes the game was not the same without him. As for New Jersey native, Irving, who LeVert is very close to, the Nets superstar point guard looks fresh and is locked in.

“Yeah I think so,” LeVert said about Durant and Irving. “It’s good to see Kevin obviously come back from a tough injury like that but I think Kevin is right back where he was and I think everyone will see that. I’m excited for him. I’m excited for everyone to get him back because the game wasn’t the same without him so I know he’s super excited to get back and playing.

“Ky as well. I think both of those guys see a level of focus. Both of them are super locked in and ready to go. I trained with Ky closely the past couple of months so like I said, he’s been super locked in. His body looks great as well, his movements look great, and he looks extremely healthy so I can’t wait to get out there with those guys.”

LeVert acknowledged that the trade rumors —first as part of a prospective deal for Jrue Holiday, then in a James Harden mega-deal.

“It’s part of the business,” LeVert said about processing trade rumors. “They tell you that from day 1. Coming into it, nobody is irreplaceable. You know, guys get moved every single year. For us, we try to be prepared for any situation.

“I try not to pay attention to it but it’s kinda hard when you turn on the TV and you see certain things. You turn on your social media and you see certain things. I just worry about the team, myself, putting in work every day, and try to maximize my potential with what I have going on.”

So, he says, he’s focused on playing with the Brooklyn Nets — nobody else — for the upcoming season, serving as their elusive “third star.”

This is not the first time LeVert’s name has been brought up in trade scenarios. Although not the first, to him, the rumors felt real this time around.

“I think this is the first real year,” LeVert said of trade rumors, perhaps a function of his 25/7/5 All-”Bubble” performance in Orlando.

“In the past, it was something for Jimmy Butler, Anthony Davis, or something like that. For me, I kind of just focus on the work that I’m putting in. Just try to stay consistent with my routine that I do every single day and just try to block everything else out. Whatever happens, happens at the end of the day. I just try to think about it like that. Whatever happens, was meant to be and it’ll happen that way so I don’t stress myself out over it.”

One comfort to him, LeVert said, is that if a trade were close, he believes Sean Marks would let him know. He and Marks have talked a lot, in his words ‘a couple times a week’ and calls their relationship “an open book.”

“I’ve spoken to Sean [Marks],” LeVert said. “I’ve spoken to him a lot. A couple times a week. Those things definitely come up. He’s an open book when it comes to that type of stuff. Me and him have a great relationship.

“If something does happen, I feel like I’d know about it. I feel like he would tell me but other than that, we are just focused on what we have going on right now.”

So what is he working on while trying not to focus on the trade rumors? The 26-year-old noted he’s emphasized playing off the ball: something he has not done a lot of since his time with the Wolverines in college. He can’t wait to show everyone that style of play and thinks it will result in a very beneficial outcome.

“I’ve been working on a lot of different things,” LeVert said. “I’ve been working on that as well but honestly that hasn’t been something I’ve been asked to do at a large volume in the NBA honestly. When I was in college, I did it a lot. I did it very well too so that is something I am looking forward to not only showing people what I can do but just doing it. I haven’t been asked to do that since I’ve been in the NBA so I love playing off the ball. It’s fun for me. I can’t wait to do that this season and it’s going to be very beneficial for all of us.”

LeVert, outside of basketball play workouts, is focusing on his strength, especially his lower body: an area where he’s faced tough injuries dating back to his time with Michigan.

“The type of workout I’ve been putting in is just preparing myself for every situation,” LeVert said. “I’ve been doing a lot of off the ball shooting, catch and shoot shots, and preparing myself to play on the ball as well. Still continuing with my strength, my lower body strength, and things like that. My balance work and making sure I’m all the way healthy for the season.“

From a team aspect, LeVert said the coaching staff, which includes a lot of new faces, is on the same page with his role. They want him to do what he does best, he said, and be prepared for multiple situations depending who is on the court with him.

“I think everybody is on the same page as far as role concerns,” LeVert said. “Just do what I do best. Be someone who is very versatile and can do a lot of things very well. Just depending on who I am out on the court with whether playing off-the-ball or on the ball. Just being ready for every situation. I think that is what I just have been preparing myself for this long offseason we’ve had...

“I think for me, it’s just maximizing the time that I’ve had from when the season shut down, which is like March, up until now it’s been a long time. So, I don’t even think of it as broken up within the ‘bubble’ because I was consistently putting in work throughout the whole time so I think it’ll be fun. With the season coming up, I feel like everyone’s been locked in doing the same thing.”

Along with the new coaches LeVert mentioned are the new teammates. LeVert noted how Marks and the front office did a “great” job this offseason, primarily with the three-team trade that brought Landry Shamet and Bruce Brown to Brooklyn.

“I think we made great moves in the offseason,” LeVert said. “Sean and those guys do a great job...

“Getting Landry; a great shooter. He’s proven in the league. He’s played in the playoffs a couple times as well. Bruce is a lockdown defender. Somebody who is going to bring it each and every night on that end of the court and just play hard. I think both of those guys play extremely hard. Like I said, Sean made great moves this offseason so I think those two are great additions to what we have already.”

Looking back on his time in the “bubble,” LeVert said the Nets want him to build off of that 25/7/5 run. He believes he’s gotten better every year, (the numbers prove that), but emphasized that the team goal is for everyone to take it to that next level.

“I just try to build off of it,” LeVert said about his time in the ‘bubble.’ “Try to look forward and not try to go back. I feel like every single year I have gotten better and I want to continue with that trend. I think the bubble was a great step forward for not only myself but for all the guys that went down there. Just with building confidence against playoff-caliber teams, I think it was huge for all of us. Using that as a stepping stone and just getting to the next level for everybody - I think that is the goal for us.”