Caris LeVert is among the many Brooklyn Nets players to deal with a sustained injury this season. Now healthy, he’s setting the bar.
General manager Sean Marks sent forward Thaddeus Young to the Indiana Pacers in 2016 just before the draft.
A trade that granted the Brooklyn Nets a first-round pick for the first time in two years.
Fast forward to present day, where that same draft pick has just recently posted a career-high 27 points in a brutally close losing effort. Caris LeVert is tearing it up for the Nets, now that the basketball gods have granted him good health.
Twenty-eighteen didn’t begin in good graces for Brooklyn’s young sixth man.
He opened with great play in a win over the Orlando Magic, New Year’s Day. But a left groin strain would sideline him for the next two games, and the Nets went 1-1.
LeVert returned to the lineup January 8th, playing some sloppy offense in a Nets’ loss. He picked up the pace, however, and was posted double digits in five of the next six.
Another left groin strain during a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on the 26th would sideline him the next three games. Brooklyn picked up just one win in his absence.
February came, but before he could get back in full stride, LeVert suffered a concussion and another strain of his left groin in a loss to the Houston Rockets. He was sent to the sidelines for another five games, and this time the Nets went 0-5.
Now, LeVert’s returned to the Brooklyn lineup and played six games with no issues. In fact, he’s been playing some of his best basketball. Over that span, he’s averaging 14.8 points and 3.8 assists on 46 percent shooting from the field.
For a team that’s lost 12 of their last 14, LeVert’s return couldn’t have come a better time. His energy and presence on defense is constantly sending a spark through this lineup.
Most impressive was LeVert’s performance against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday. He posted 27 points, five rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block in 29 minutes.
After his standout and career night, LeVert was cautious yet optimistic about his return from injury. He spoke with Brian Lewis of the New York Post about his mindset headed into games.
“I try not to think about the injury or anything like that,” LeVert said. “Just go in knowing I’m going to make mistakes, just try to knock the rust off a game at a time, just play. Play through it.”
14 of his career-high 27 points came in the fourth quarter until a sloppy play in the final seconds lost Brooklyn the game.
LeVert was playing so well, in fact, that head coach Kenny Atkinson sidelined point guard D’Angelo Russell to keep his hot hand on the court.
“Caris was great. There’s no way [I was taking him out] with the game he was having,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “There’s only so many spots out there, so we had to go with Caris.”
Next came a back-and-forth match against the reigning NBA champions, Golden State. Brooklyn played well, and then really bad, and then really well again, but ultimately lost grip of the game in the fourth quarter.
LeVert scored just 10 points on 36 percent shooting but suffered only one turnover and made some critical plays on Brooklyn runs. The Nets lost by 13 points, their largest point deficit since the guard’s return from injury.
Understandably so. I mean, it’s the Warriors.
In their final game of a five-game road trip, Brooklyn took down the Charlotte Hornets 125-111. LeVert put up 22 points on 53 percent shooting in 30 minutes off the bench.
.@CarisLeVert has recorded 20+ points twice in his last 3 games.
Last night he put in 22 ? pic.twitter.com/eaIvtvwpVC
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) March 9, 2018
The victory over Charlotte pushed Brooklyn to a 21-45 record, officially transcending their record from last season.
There are 16 games left in their season, and with Caris LeVert playing at this level, expect the Nets to earn a few more wins on the way out.
For Brooklyn, a boost in team morale has been more than apparent since LeVert’s return.
He has put this team back on the court mentally, and they’re playing harder than ever behind his sixth man spark.
Brooklyn will return home to Barclays Center on Sunday to host Rookie of the Year frontrunner Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers. Tip-off is at 7:30 pm ET.