Cavaliers Notes: LeVert, Rondo, Bickerstaff, Markkanen

It didn’t take long for Caris LeVert to show the Cavaliers that he can help close out games, writes Joel Lorenzi of The Indianapolis Star. Acquired in a trade with the Pacers on Monday, LeVert hit four baskets late in Friday’s game to snuff out a rally by his former team. With Darius Garland sidelined by injury, the Cavs turned to LeVert for crunch-time scoring in his second game with the team.

“(Coach J.B. Bickerstaff) was trusting me all game to be honest with you,” LeVert said. “I was missing some easy bunnies around the rim, and he kept the faith. … I knew I would find my rhythm late in the game. It’s everything when your teammates have that much confidence in you.” 

Levert, who suddenly finds himself in a playoff race, has been a welcome addition to Cleveland’s offense because of his ability to create his own shot. This is the second straight year that LeVert has been traded, and he acknowledged that the constant rumors were getting to him.

“It’s hard to play in games and think about where you’re gonna be in the next couple of days, so that situation was extremely tough,” he admitted. “Honestly, I was just ready for it to be over. Whether I was staying in Indiana or getting moved wherever, I was just like, ‘I can’t wait for this damn deadline.’ Because you hear rumors every single day, and we’re human beings. At the end of the day, it’s not just (NBA) 2K.”

There’s more from Cleveland:

  • LeVert didn’t ask to leave Indiana, but there were indications that he was an uncomfortable fit in coach Rick Carlisle’s offense, Lorenzi adds. LeVert suggested to Jarrett Allen during Friday’s game that he’s much happier in his new situation. “He was telling me on the bench ‘You know man it just feels so good to be able to play just free, play free with this type of team, not have to worry about some guy glaring you down,’” Allen said.
  • Another Cavalier who welcomed a change of scenery this year is Rajon Rondo, per Chris Fedor of Acquired from the Lakers in early January, Rondo has been playing 21.7 minutes per game since the deal. He calls Bickerstaff his “dream coach,” and it appears the feeling is mutual. “I have the ultimate amount of confidence in him,” Bickerstaff said. “Regardless of the time he’s been with us, you watch his career as a whole and you see all the things that he’s done in this league and the respect you have for those things that he’s done, those things that impact winning. It’s not a game that’s just about numbers, it’s a game of ‘How do I orchestrate this to help this team win?’ He’s done that for a really long time.”
  • Lauri Markkanen, who hasn’t played since January 22 because of a sprained ankle, worked out on the court before Friday’s game and is being considered day to day, tweets Kelsey Russo of The Athletic.
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