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LeVert learned plenty in Year One with Nets

Brooklyn’s First-Round Pick Makes Huge Strides in Debut Campaign

May 4, 2017 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Whether he was helping out in the Nets’ injury-riddled backcourt or playing small forward, Caris LeVert made tremendous strides during his rookie season here in Brooklyn. AP Photo by John Raoux
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Most talent evaluators couldn’t get past the fact that Caris LeVert had endured three separate surgical procedures on his left foot in less than a year leading up to the NBA Draft.

To Nets general manager Sean Marks and incoming first-year head coach Kenny Atkinson, the then-21-year-old swing man out of the University of Michigan was exactly what they were looking for, despite the fact that he wouldn’t be ready to suit up for Brooklyn until a month and a half into the regular season.

“I go back to the draft interview when Kenny and I sat and interviewed Caris and we left the interview and said, ‘That’s a Brooklyn Net right there,’” Marks recalled recently on the team’s web site.

“Honestly, it was that simple,” he added of the Nets’ first-round pick (20th) overall in last June’s draft.

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LeVert’s rehab from the third surgery on the Jones fracture of the fifth metatarsal bone on his left foot apparently did the trick.

The 6-foot-7 200-pound speedster made his NBA debut on Dec. 7 against Denver, and wound up playing in all but five of the Nets’ final 62 games, averaging 8.2 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists while splitting time between shooting guard, point guard and small forward.

Levert logged an average of 22 minutes per game, capably filling a myriad of backcourt roles while starting point guard Jeremy Lin went through an injury-plagued first season in Brooklyn.

He also shot a respectable 45 percent from the floor overall, and 32 percent from 3-point range.

And as the league-worst Nets improved down the stretch, going 11-13 over their final 24 games after a brutal 9-49 start, LeVert did the same, adjusting and adapting on the fly, just as Marks and Atkinson knew he was capable of doing.

“The speed of the game was the toughest thing to adjust to,” admitted LeVert, who is already eager to begin preparing for what he hopes will be his first full season in the NBA in 2017-18.

“Especially after sitting out for a full year,” he added. “Just with more reps, with more time out there I felt more comfortable. At the end of the day it’s basketball, so your instincts take over.”

Those instincts, coupled with injuries to Lin and others, resulted in LeVert starting 25 of Brooklyn’s final 26 games.

“It was big for me [to start],” LeVert said. “I didn’t play at the beginning of the season, so for [coach Atkinson] to show that amount of confidence, for my teammates to show that confidence was huge.”

While Marks recently intimated that he was scouring the globe, as well as this year’s draft and free agency, for a swing man, LeVert has firmly established himself as part of the Nets’ plan going forward.

And he’s not taking his previously oft-injured foot off the pedal when it comes to preparing for next season.

“I’ll be back here [at the Nets’ practice facility in Sunset Park] for a majority of the summer just getting better at everything,” LeVert revealed.

“I can’t wait. I’m a worker, I’m someone who loves getting better and embraces the grind.”

The grind is just beginning for the Nets’ brain trust, which is still preaching patience as Marks and Atkinson try to formulate a roster that will help Brooklyn seriously compete for its first-ever NBA title in the years to come.

LeVert hopes to be a major contributor in the push toward that title, and believes the ups and downs of his first season in the league will fuel him in that pursuit.

“I learned a lot, going from being in rehab the first part of the season to closing out games at the end of the season. I saw every part of it really,” he told

“You just have to stay the course. You can’t get too high or too low on yourself. There is always going to be those highs and those lows, but you have to stay [on an] even keel yourself.”

For LeVert to go from being one of the biggest question marks in the draft to a bonafide NBA player in less than a year proved that Marks and Atkinson may actually have a clue as to how to turn this team around.

It also shined a light on how much more improvement the organization can expect from their all-purpose guard/forward.

“I would say I’m extremely blessed to be in this position,” LeVert said. “It’s refreshing to see that you belong in this league and that you’re doing your part in this league, especially at a young age.”

Nothing But Net: The Nets will have upwards of $30 million to spend in free agency this summer, and Marks remains focused on filling the 3-spot in the lineup. Potential targets for Brooklyn include Denver’s Danilo Gallinari, Atlanta’s Tim Hardaway Jr., and Indiana’s C.J. Miles, not to mention the countless players Marks scouted during his recent trip to Europe. “To be honest, we need to look at everybody,” Marks said. “We’re looking at the best players available. That’s coming through the draft, that’s coming through free agency.”


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