Caris LeVert

Full Recovery Expected For Caris LeVert

Caris LeVert had surgery Monday to treat renal cell carcinoma of his left kidney and is expected to make a full recovery, the Pacers announced. LeVert remains out indefinitely, but no further treatment will be needed.

A mass was discovered on LeVert’s kidney earlier this month as part of a routine physical required for the trade that sent him to Indiana. The Pacers had the option to void the deal, but elected to go through with it in the belief that the talented guard would eventually return to action. Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard expressed hope that LeVert might be able to play this season.

The opportunity to acquire the 26-year-old motivated the Pacers to get involved in the James Harden trade, although LeVert was technically acquired from the Rockets in a separate deal. LeVert averaged 18.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 6.0 assists in 12 games with the Nets before being moved.

Atlantic Notes: Payton, Raptors, LeVert, Johnson

Elfrid Payton remains the starting point guard for the Knicks ahead of breakout rookie Immanuel Quickley and veteran off-guard Austin Rivers thanks to Payton’s solid defense, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post.

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau was diplomatically effusive in his praise of both Payton and Quickley, the latter of whom Berman notes has become a fan favorite. “I love both guys — they’re different and bring different things to the team,’’ Thibodeau said Sunday. “Elfrid, when you look at his defense and size, a lot of these guards, particularly point guards in the NBA today, they’re a load to deal with. Elfrid has a good understanding how to defend them.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Nets-turned-Pacers wing Caris LeVert was notified by Brooklyn GM Sean Marks during their 2020 offseason that he might be traded in 2020/21, according to J Michael of the Indianapolis Star“Sean was very honest with me from the first time the rumors came out. He told me don’t rule it out,” LeVert said. “I didn’t know it was going to happen. I just knew that it was a possibility and there was a lot of speculation.” 
  • With the Raptors having finally established a consistent rotation, the team is rebounding from an ugly beginning to its season, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star writes. Toronto is on a three-game win streak following a 2-8 start. “I think that we’re continuing to find out things about our team that are improving the team,” head coach Nick Nurse said yesterday. “Guys are comfortable with the guys that we’re putting out there and I think those guys have chipped in pretty considerably.
  • Hustling in practice has carved out a rotation role for Raptors reserve forward Stanley Johnson, per Doug Smith of the Toronto Star. “I think the important quality is that he’s maintained … a really strong work ethic day in and day out, which isn’t easy to do for somebody who’s been in the league for a while when you’re not hitting the court for really long stretches of time,” Nurse said. Johnson is averaging 14.7 MPG for Toronto in 11 contests.

Central Notes: LeVert, Allen, Pistons, White

Caris LeVert won’t be taking the court for the Pacers anytime soon, but the team’s newly-acquired guard was in attendance at Tuesday’s practice and spoke to reporters for the first time since being traded from Brooklyn to Indiana.

As Eric Woodyard of ESPN details, LeVert said on Tuesday that he’d been feeling “100% healthy” this season and was surprised when an MRI conducted as part of his physical revealed a small mass on his left kidney.

“In a way, this trade definitely showed and revealed what was going on in my body,” LeVert said. “So I’m definitely looking at it from that side and definitely humbled to know that this trade could’ve possibly saved me in the long run.”

According to LeVert, he and the Pacers are still waiting on some testing results and don’t know yet if the mass is cancerous. The 26-year-old added that while he wants to return to action as soon as possible, he understands it’s important to prioritize his health and to “make sure I live a long life,” so he isn’t yet thinking about when he might be able to play again.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • While Jarrett Allen admitted he was “disappointed” by not getting the chance to continue his career in Brooklyn, he’s excited to be part of the Cavaliers, as Chris Fedor of relays. “It’s good that they want to invest in me, invest in my improvement and have me be a part of their organization,” Allen said. “I love what the front office is doing. I love how the coaches are teaching us. I can’t wait to play with them.”
  • The Pistons won’t have a G League affiliate of their own participating in the revamped 2020/21 season, but they’ll consider using the flexible assignment option to get some of their young players some regular playing time at a lower level, head coach Dwane Casey said on Tuesday, per Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press. “Right now they’re playing (NBA) games when they should be learning the G League, making mistakes and learning from them in the G League instead of our games,” Casey said of the team’s inexperienced youngsters.
  • The jury’s still out on whether Coby White can be the Bulls‘ long-term answer at point guard, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times.

Central Notes: Porter Jr., LeVert, Weaver, Oladipo

Cavaliers second-year swingman Kevin Porter Jr., who is expected to be traded or waived soon, was told to clean out his locker after his outburst toward GM Koby Altman and other team officials on Friday, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. Porter was incensed when his locker was moved to another location to make room for newcomer Taurean Prince.

The decision to move Porter’s locker spot was based on NBA seniority and spacing to adhere to COVID-19 protocols, Spencer Davies of Basketball News reports. Porter was heard yelling about “modern-day slavery” during the argument with Altman, Davies adds.

Coach J.B. Bickerstaff didn’t directly address Porter’s status on Monday but strongly hinted the decision to move on from Porter was final, according to Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“We all want to see Kevin be successful. I still feel that way,” Bickerstaff said. “So whatever it is that happens in the future for him, I hope nothing but the best for him. And it’s part of our responsibility as coaches to give everyone our all and try to make the best of every situation. I can say that we did that.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard feels strongly that Caris LeVert will fully recover from his kidney issue but expects it will be six-to-eight weeks before he can even pick up a basketball again, according to Tony East of Forbes Sports (Twitter links). “We got comfortable with the medical,” he said. “We are getting more comfortable every single day. He’s probably going to have surgery.” The team will know more about LeVert’s timeline in the next seven days, East adds.
  • Pistons GM Troy Weaver made more roster moves than any other NBA executive during the abbreviated offseason and he vows to stay bold during the team’s rebuilding process, Rod Beard of the Detroit News writes. “When I was growing up, I didn’t stick my toe in the pool; I jumped in,” Weaver said. “I sit on the front on the roller coaster with my hands up so I’m not going to come in and be gun-shy. My clip will be empty.”
  • Victor Oladipo, traded to the Rockets in the four-team blockbuster that brought James Harden to Brooklyn, bid farewell to Pacers fans in an Instagram post. “I find myself going through a wide range of emotions.  But the one emotion or feeling that I keep coming back to is gratitude,” he wrote in part. “I am just extremely grateful right now. … Grateful to still be able to make a living playing the sport I love. Grateful that I still have the opportunity to achieve greatness at the highest level of basketball. But I’m deeply grateful of my time spent in Indiana and in the city of Indianapolis.”

Pacers Notes: LeVert, Lamb, McConnell, Turner

Caris LeVert is sidelined indefinitely after a mass was discovered on his kidney, but Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard believes there’s a chance he could play this season, tweets Eric Woodyard of ESPN. No timetable has been set on a possible return, and the team will decide how to proceed depending on the results of further testing.

“As soon as we found this out, all eyes were trying to help Caris,” Pritchard said. “This organization is going to step up.” (Twitter link)

The mass was discovered during a physical that LeVert was required to take after being sent from Brooklyn to Indiana this week as part of a four-team deal. The Pacers could have voided the trade after the mass was discovered, but they opted to take a chance on LeVert.

“There’s risks, we’re willing to accept that risk but there’s also a human element in that,” Pritchard said (Twitter link). He added that everyone on the Pacers’ management team was comfortable with completing the deal, according to Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files (Twitter link).

There’s more from Indianapolis:

  • The Pacers dealt with the Rockets to acquire LeVert rather than trying to get him from the Nets, according to Agness (Twitter link). Pritchard credits general manager Chad Buchanan with leading the effort. “We didn’t feel like we could get Caris directly from Brooklyn,” Pritchard said. “We needed a third team.”
  • Guard Jeremy Lamb is nearing a return from an ACL tear in his left knee that he suffered last February, writes Michael McCleary of The Indianapolis Star. Coach Nate Bjorkgren said today that when he asked Lamb how he was feeling, he responded with a “thumbs up.” Lamb was a starter last season and averaged 12.5 points in 46 games before the injury. “I’m not saying that means (he’ll return) tomorrow, but it’s getting very close,” Bjorkgren said.
  • T.J. McConnell has adjusted his game to the offseason coaching change, writes J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star. McConnell has nearly abandoned his turnaround jumpers in the lane under Bjorkgren, who prefers layups and open 3-pointers. “He’s a guy who takes himself for granted,” said teammate Malcolm Brogdon. “When you talk to him he doesn’t understand how good he is. His IQ on the floor, knowing who to get the ball to, when to get the ball to him.”
  • Myles Turner is focused on winning Defensive Player of the Year honors, according to Alex Kennedy of Basketball News. He’s leading the league with 4.2 blocks per game, more than six entire teams. “I’m being more aggressive defensively,” Turner said. “I’m going after more shots and putting myself in position to be successful in that area.”
  • The Pacers received $2.6MM from the Nets in the revised four-team trade, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Indiana created a $4.79M trade exception, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link).

Caris LeVert Out Indefinitely

Pacers guard Caris LeVert will be sidelined indefinitely after an MRI found that he has a small mass on his left kidney, according to a statement from the team. More medical tests will be conducted and details will be released as needed, per the Pacers.

“On behalf of my family and myself, we want to thank the Indiana Pacers for their support and guidance,” LeVert said. “We are grateful for their extreme thoroughness during the physical process.” (Twitter link)

LeVert was part of this week’s four-team deal that sent James Harden to Brooklyn, and the mass was discovered during a physical that was required for the trade to be completed, according to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated (Twitter link). The medical issue delayed the deal, which wasn’t officially finalized until today.

Indiana could have opted to void the trade, but chose to accept additional compensation in the form of a 2024 second-round pick and cash. That indicates a level of trust that LeVert will eventually be OK physically, notes Bobby Marks of ESPN (via Twitter).

“His basketball skill and on court play speaks for itself and we know he has a great career ahead of him,” Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said in a statement. “We will support Caris through this time and know that he will join us on the court as soon as he is able.”

Pritchard will address the situation further in a media session later tonight, tweets Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files.

LeVert, 26, was a first-round pick in 2016 and had spent his entire career with the Nets. He was averaging 18.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 6.0 assists in 12 games this season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Oladipo-LeVert Deal Complete; Pacers Get Additional Compensation

The Rockets and Pacers have officially completed their swap of high-scoring guards, with Caris LeVert going to Indiana and Victor Oladipo heading to Houston, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

It’s part of the four-team blockbuster that sent former Most Valuable Player James Harden to Brooklyn, even though all other aspects were officially announced earlier this week. LeVert was acquired by the Rockets in that trade.

The part of the deal flipping LeVert to Indiana initially looked like it would be completed as a separate transaction, which would’ve allowed the Rockets to maximize the value of a trade exception created in the original trade.

However, an additional second-round pick and cash are being sent to Indiana due to an issue discovered in LeVert’s physical, per Charania, requiring the trade to be formally completed as a four-teamer.

[UPDATE: LeVert Out Indefinitely Due To Small Mass On Left Kidney]

In addition to Oladipo and a 2023 second-round pick (from the Rockets), the Pacers are also receiving cash and a 2024 second-round pick, says Charania. That additional pick, which is coming from Cleveland, was originally supposed to land with the Nets.

Per RealGM’s list of traded picks, the two picks headed to Indiana will technically be the least favorable of Houston’s, Dallas’, and Miami’s 2023 second-rounders; and the least favorable of Cleveland’s and Utah’s 2024 second-rounders.

With all aspects of the deal now completed, Harden is available to play Saturday for the Nets. Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press tweets.

Oladipo will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and the Pacers feared they wouldn’t be able to re-sign him. In contrast, LeVert is in the first year of a three-year, $52.5MM contract. Both players have missed time in recent years due to injuries, but are healthy and playing well this season.

“We want to thank Victor for what he gave to the Pacers through his play, his diligence in rehab coming back from a serious injury, and his community efforts,” Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said in a statement confirming today’s deal. “These decisions are obviously never easy and this one in particular was hard because of our relationship.

“Caris is a high-quality person who will fit in with what we as an organization are doing, on and off the floor. He’s a versatile young talent who we think will be a great fit with the direction our team is taking. He can play multiple positions and affect the game at both ends of the floor.”

The Rockets, meanwhile, could retain Oladipo and attempt to re-sign him beyond 2021 or could explore flipping him at the March 25 trade deadline. Houston can trade him immediately but would have to wait until after March 7 to move him in a deal that aggregates his salary for matching purposes. For now, the Rockets will probably want to see how Oladipo looks in their revamped lineup.

Because of the amended structure of the trade, the trade exception generated by the Rockets will be worth approximately $10.65MM instead of $15.45MM.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Luke Adams contributed to this story.

Rockets Trade James Harden To Nets

JANUARY 16: The Pacers/Rockets part of the trade is now official and has been folded back into the initial deal, formally making it a four-team trade once again. Details can be found right here.

JANUARY 14: The trade is now official, the Nets announced in a press release.

“Adding an All-NBA player such as James to our roster better positions our team to compete against the league’s best,” Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks said. “James is one of the most prolific scorers and playmakers in our game, and we are thrilled to bring his special talents to Brooklyn.

“While we are excited to welcome James and his family to the Nets, we also want to thank the players who are departing. Caris, Jarrett, Rodions and Taurean were instrumental to the team’s success and have made an enormous impact on our organization. It has been a pleasure watching them grow both as players and as people and they will always be part of our Nets family. We wish each of them and their families all the best in the future.”

In their press release announcing the deal, the Cavs noted that they also acquired the draft rights to 2017 second-round pick Aleksandar Vezenkov from the Nets. Vezenkov has remained overseas since being drafted.

Interestingly, the Nets, Cavs, and Rockets opted to complete this trade as a three-team deal, meaning the trade sending LeVert and a second-round pick to Indiana for Oladipo will be a separate move.

Separating the two trades will allow the Rockets to generate a larger trade exception in this initial deal — that exception will be worth $15,451,216.

JANUARY 13: The Nets will acquire star guard James Harden in a trade with the Rockets, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne (Twitter link). Shams Charania of The Athletic confirms (via Twitter) that Harden will head to Brooklyn.

According to Wojnarowski and Shelburne (via Twitter) and Charania (Twitter link), it will be a multi-team trade that also involves the Cavaliers and Pacers, with the Rockets receiving Indiana guard Victor Oladipo in the deal.

The Rockets will acquire Oladipo from the Pacers; Rodions Kurucs, three first-round picks, and four pick swaps from the Nets; and Dante Exum and the Bucks’ unprotected 2022 first-round selection from the Cavs, per ESPN and The Athletic.

Cleveland will receive Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince from Brooklyn, while the Pacers acquire Caris LeVert.

Charania reports (via Twitter) that the Pacers will also receive a second-round pick in the trade. That second-rounder is a 2023 selection from the Rockets, tweets Wojnarowski.

In addition to Harden, the Nets will receive a 2024 second-round pick from Cleveland, says Wojnarowski (Twitter link). The Cavaliers have traded away the more favorable of their own second-rounder and the Jazz’s second-rounder, so Brooklyn will presumably get the less favorable of those two picks.

This is a massive trade with a ton of moving parts to break down. Let’s start with the Nets’ side of the deal.

Nets’ perspective:

The draft picks the Nets are sending to Houston are their unprotected first-rounders in 2022, 2024, and 2026, according to Wojnarowski, who tweets that the Rockets will have the ability to swap first-round picks with the Nets in 2021, 2023, 2025, and 2027 (without protections, tweets Zach Lowe of ESPN).

That means the Nets won’t control any of their own first-round picks through 2027, making this a massive bet on the star trio of Harden, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving. Irving is currently away from the team on personal leave and is something of a question mark for the time being, but with Durant and Harden leading the offense, the Nets should have more than enough offensive firepower to get by until he returns.

The move, which makes Brooklyn an immediate championship contender, reunites Harden with his former Thunder teammate and fellow former MVP Durant. Harden will also team up once again with ex-Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, who is now a Nets assistant.

As a result of trading four players for one, the Nets will have three open roster spots to fill, notes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). Minimum-salary signings seem likely, since Brooklyn’s projected luxury tax bill will further increase as a result of taking on Harden’s $41MM+ salary.

However, the team also still has its $5.72MM taxpayer mid-level exception available and will likely be granted a disabled player exception worth about the same amount following Spencer Dinwiddie‘s ACL tear. As such, Brooklyn has the flexibility to sign players to deals worth more than the minimum.

Harden had a 15% trade kicker in his contract, but it will be voided since he’s already making the maximum salary.

While this blockbuster trade is probably a safe bet to work out better than the last time the Nets mortgaged their future by surrendering a series of first-round selections and pick swaps (for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce), it’s worth noting that Harden is 31 years old and Durant is 32 — the Nets’ picks for the next couple years figure to fall near the end of the first round, but there’s no guarantee that will still be the case by 2025, 2026, or 2027.

Rockets’ perspective:

The Rockets are clearly betting that some of those draft assets will become valuable, opting for a package heavy on picks rather than pushing to complete a trade with the Sixers for Ben Simmons, as was rumored earlier today. Although Simmons was said to be on the table in talks with Philadelphia, it’s not clear what the rest of that deal might have looked like.

By choosing to trade with the Nets and Pacers, the Rockets landed a two-time All-Star (Oladipo) in addition to four draft picks and four draft swaps. Oladipo will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, so there’s no guarantee he’ll be a long-term Rocket. Houston will hold his Bird rights and could re-sign him in the offseason, but acquiring him this early in the season also gives the club the option of extracting further value by flipping him at the March 25 trade deadline.

Today’s trade agreement marks the end of a saga that began in November, when word first broke that Harden had turned down a two-year, $103MM extension offer and had requested a trade out of Houston. The Rockets didn’t move him in the offseason, prompting the superstar guard to express his displeasure by reporting late to training camp.

On Tuesday night, he accelerated his departure by telling reporters after a blowout loss that the Rockets were “just not good enough” and that he didn’t believe the situation could be fixed. Houston decided to keep Harden away from the team until a trade agreement could be reached, and ultimately took less than 24 hours to finalize a deal.

[RELATED: Rockets’ Players, Silas Discuss Harden Situation]

Barring any additional imminent changes, the Rockets will have a fascinating roster in the short term, headlined by a trio of former stars who are coming back from major injuries. Oladipo, who missed a year from 2019-20 with a quad issue, joins John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, who have looked good this season after long-term injury absences of their own.

With Christian Wood and P.J. Tucker in the frontcourt, Houston should be a competitive team this season, albeit probably not a legit contender. Today’s trade is more about the future. Having previously traded away a handful of their own future first-round picks and given up a pair of pick swaps in 2021 and 2025, the Rockets have replenished their stash of draft picks in recent months, first by trading Robert Covington and Russell Westbrook and now by moving Harden.

Houston, which had one open roster spot entering the day, will have to waive a player to complete the trade. The club will also generate an eight-figure trade exception in the deal.

All three of the players acquired in today’s trade by the Rockets – Oladipo, Kurucs, and Exum – can become free agents at season’s end (Kurucs has a team option for 2021/22).

It also shouldn’t be overlooked that moving Harden for three less expensive players will take the Rockets $3.65MM below the luxury tax line and $9.95MM below their hard cap, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). Entering the day, Houston was over the tax and only about $1MM from the hard cap — the club should now have added financial and cap flexibility for the rest of the season.

Pacers’ perspective:

Oladipo has been the subject of trade rumors for the last year, since he has at times seemed lukewarm about the idea of remaining in Indiana after his current contract expires in 2021. While the Pacers had insisted they were comfortable hanging onto him and addressing his contract situation when free agency arrived, moving him for LeVert makes sense for the franchise.

While Oladipo is a stronger defender, LeVert is a talented scorer who is two years younger than Oladipo and is on a more favorable contract. LeVert is earning $16.2MM this season and is under contract for two additional years beyond 2020/21, at an affordable rate of $18.1MM per year.

As Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report observes (via Twitter), re-signing Oladipo at the price he was seeking would’ve been a challenge for the Pacers, who are already on the hook for lucrative multiyear contracts for Malcolm Brogdon, Domantas Sabonis, and Myles Turner. Locking in LeVert through 2022/23 should be much more financially manageable for Indiana.

In the short term, the Pacers will also slip under the luxury tax line as a result of swapping Oladipo ($21MM) for LeVert, tweets Marks.

Cavaliers’ perspective:

The Cavs are acquiring Prince and will send out Exum and a future second-round pick, but this trade is mostly about sending out the Bucks’ 2022 first-rounder in exchange for Allen, a promising young center who will be a restricted free agent during the coming offseason.

Cleveland already has a number of veteran options at the four and five, including Andre Drummond, Kevin Love, Larry Nance Jr., and JaVale McGee, so acquiring Allen will create more of a logjam in the short term.

In the long term though, you could make the case that none of the Cavs’ incumbent big men have more upside than Allen, who is averaging a double-double (11.2 PPG, 10.4 RPG) in a part-time role (26.7 MPG) so far this season.

If Allen starts at least five games for the Cavs during the rest of the 2020/21 season, he’ll meet the starter criteria and his qualifying offer in restricted free agency will be worth $7.7MM. He’d have the option of accepting that one-year offer, negotiating a longer-term deal with Cleveland, or signing an offer sheet with another team, which the Cavs could match.

In a pair of corresponding roster moves, the Cavs will waive Thon Maker and will end Yogi Ferrell‘s 10-day contract early, per Chris Fedor of

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Nets Notes: Irving, Durant, Fertitta, Shumpert

Now that a new Big Three is together in Brooklyn, Kyrie Irving will likely be asked to sacrifice to make it work, two NBA scouts told Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Today’s trade that reunites James Harden with Kevin Durant gives the Nets three elite offensive players, but they may not fit together smoothly.

“On paper obviously that team wins the East and probably the whole thing,” said Bryan Oringher, a former scout with the Raptors, Hawks and Wizards. “But it all depends if they’re willing to do a Warriors-type thing and all sacrifice. (Harden’s) obviously incredible, but none of them seem super happy without the ball.”

Irving missed a fifth straight game tonight for personal reasons, and his absence could be extended if the NBA decides he has to quarantine when he returns to the team, Lewis adds. Coach Steve Nash refused to address specifics about Irving during a session with the media.

“I haven’t had an opportunity to know any new details about Kyrie’s situation,” Nash said. “So I’ll just rely on the front office to learn more as we go. They’re the ones that are going to do the messaging on that front.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Durant couldn’t talk directly about the Harden deal after tonight’s game because it’s still not official, but he did speak briefly about his previous experience with Harden in Oklahoma City, saying, “It was fun,” Lewis tweets. “I’ve heard that that’s not even finalized yet, so I’ll talk about it another time,” Durant added (Twitter link).
  • Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta wasn’t impressed by the players the Nets were offering, such as Jarrett Allen, Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie, who is sidelined with a torn ACL, Lewis adds in a separate story. That explains why Allen wound up in Cleveland and LeVert was sent to Indiana, while Houston acquired Victor Oladipo and a parcel of draft picks.
  • Today’s trade leaves the Nets with three open roster spots, and free agent Iman Shumpert could be worth considering, writes Alex Schiffer of The Athletic. Shumpert played 13 games for Brooklyn last season and brought a strong defensive presence to the team. He briefly played alongside Harden in Houston, and was a teammate of Irving and Joe Harris in Cleveland.

Eastern Notes: LeVert, Simmons, Embiid, Lamb, Bulls

With Kevin Durant set to return on Sunday and Kyrie Irving potentially returning next week, Nets head coach Steve Nash has to figure out what to do with Caris LeVert, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. Durant had been sidelined due to the league’s health and safety protocols, while Irving continues to miss time due to personal reasons.

LeVert, widely considered to be the team’s third-best offensive option behind its star duo, has averaged 18.1 points and six assists in 27.2 minutes per game this season. The 26-year-old recently acknowledged that it’s easier to get into sync as a starter, though he hasn’t been given a consistent role to date.

“Yeah, the roles are definitely different when those guys are playing,” LeVert said, naming Irving and Durant. “Yeah, I think so. But for me, just working off the ball is definitely something I’ve worked on a lot this offseason, playing off of players, playing off the ball, playing that 2-man spot, that 3-man spot. That’s where I’ve really improved, and as the season progresses, I’ll be able to show that.”

Here are some other notes from the Eastern Conference tonight:

  • Sixers star Ben Simmons will miss Monday’s game against the Hawks due to a knee injury, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. He’ll continue receiving treatment and be listed as day-to-day going forward. Meanwhile, star center Joel Embiid (back soreness) is listed as probable, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne (Twitter link).
  • Pacers guard Jeremy Lamb will travel with the team on its upcoming road trip, Michael McCleary of the Indianapolis Star writes. Lamb, who’s recently been a full-practice participant, suffered a torn ACL in February of 2020, with head coach Nate Bjorkgren waiting for the “green light” to play him. “He’s getting close,” Bjorkgren said, “he’s getting very close to playing.” Indiana has upcoming games against the Kings on Monday, Warriors on Tuesday, Blazers on Thursday and Suns on Saturday.
  • The Bulls are hoping to return several protocol-impacted players soon, Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago writes. As Schaefer notes, Chandler HutchisonTomas Satoransky, Lauri Markkanen and Ryan Arcidiacono haven’t been active in almost two weeks. “There’s nothing normal,” head coach Billy Donovan said. “Guys are pretty much just locked up in their rooms, there’s very very little anybody can do. The days are long for these guys. It’s just a lot different.”