Pacers swingman Caris LeVert made his season debut on Saturday after a stress fracture sidelined him during training camp. LeVert learned a lot from the way he was thrown into the deep end last season following his return from a kidney surgery in March 2021, writes Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files. After just one post-surgery practice, the Pacers’ prior regime under embattled former head coach Nate Bjorkgren had LeVert play for 27 minutes of game action. LeVert had not yet communicated to the team that he was ready to play.
“I’m like, ‘Damn, OK, thrown right into it,” LeVert said of his prior experience. This season, under new head coach Rick Carlisle, the Pacers took a more measured approach with LeVert’s return from the stress fracture.
LeVert, the club’s starting small forward, suited up for Indiana’s seventh game of the young season, a 97-94 loss to the Raptors. Across 16 minutes of action, the 27-year-old LeVert poured in 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field. Despite losing the game, the 1-6 Pacers must be grateful to have gained LeVert following the injury layoff.
There’s more out of the Central Division:
- No. 1 Pistons draft pick Cade Cunningham is looking forward to making his own mark in the NBA, after several of his fellow 2021 rookies have already made an impact on the young NBA season, per Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. “My class is full of big-time talent,” Cunningham said. “So I think it kind of motivates me more to be more of myself. I’m used to us pushing each other to be better. Now I’m excited to get my chance to do my thing.” In his NBA debut, a 110-103 victory over the Magic, Cunningham made just one field goal for two points. The 6’8″ guard out of Oklahoma State also logged seven rebounds, two assists and one block in 19 minutes of action.
- After holding on for a solid 107-99 home court victory against the previously-undefeated Jazz last night, the 5-1 Bulls appear to be for real. The club, featuring 10 new players this season, is showcasing a new on-court persona, predicated around a fast pace and willingness to take free throws, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “This, from an identity standpoint, is how we want to play,” head coach Billy Donovan said after the victory. “I thought this was one of our better games from start to finish. For the most part, the consistency was there for how we need to play.” The club’s surprisingly-great defense held Utah to just 38% shooting from the field while making them cough up the ball for 20 turnovers.
- Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic posits that the Bulls are looking like one of the better teams in the league during this young season after the Jazz win. Mayberry highlights Chicago’s stellar, overpowering defense, noting that the Jazz had an awful 96.1 offensive rating on the night. Mayberry adds that reserves Derrick Jones Jr. and Tony Bradley exhibited plenty of defensive promise with their extended rotational minutes Saturday.
- Though the Bulls could have enough depth this season to weather the injury absences of third-year guard Coby White and second-year forward Patrick Williams, both lottery selections, the team is missing out on key development windows for its two young players, opines Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. Cowley says that White is scheduled to have the condition of his injured shoulder assessed in November, and his return to the Bulls could happen as late as January. Williams could miss the whole season with a wrist injury that will require surgery. “I think we’ve got to as best we can organizationally help those guys get back and utilize this time as best they can,’’ head coach Billy Donovan said of dealing with the absences of White and Williams. “But it’s certainly not the most ideal situation for their development.’’