Caris LeVert

Nets Sorely Missing Caris LeVert

After Nets swingman Caris LeVert went down with a gruesome leg injury a little less than a month ago, the team feared the worst, with several of LeVert’s teammates seen visibly crying after the injury occurred.

Fear turned to relief, however, when tests revealed a subtalar dislocation of the right foot, no broken bones, and a prognosis of a possible return to the court this season.

Since the injury, however, the Nets are 2-11 and have lost eight straight after blowing another big lead against the Thunder tonight. Before the injury, the Nets were off to their best start since the 2014-2015 season with a 6-7 record. So not surprisingly, the relief that Brooklyn felt after LeVert’s diagnosis is starting to wane, writes Anthony Puccio of NetsDaily.

“I just think Caris gives us a different dimension, especially against the switching teams,” head coach Kenny Atkinson said. “Teams were much more hesitant to switch against us because he’d just blow by the big that was guarding him. It’s a dimension we don’t have (now).”

In other words, LeVert made players better on both ends of the floor, with veteran Jared Dudley even going as far as to publicly call LeVert the Nets’ best player earlier this week. “We lost our best player and have lost three to five games by like two to six points, Dudley tweeted. (We) could easily be (a) .500 basketball team.”

There is still no timetable for LeVert’s return, but the Nets still presumably hope to have him back on the court before the end of the 2018/19 season.

Atlantic Notes: Raptors, Butler, Nets

The Raptors have been the best team in the NBA so far this season, in no small part due to the offseason additions of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. As Tim Bontemps of ESPN writes, one of the key qualities that both veterans bring to the table is their play down the stretch of a close game, as evident in the duel against Kevin Durant and the Warriors last week.

As Bontemps points out, both Green and Leonard have been on the floor for the most intense moments of the NBA Finals and both players are battle-tested as they look to lead the Raptors to the promised land this season.

The Raptors still have to iron out some late-game kinks in order to close out tough games (especially come playoff time), but at least this season they will have two players that can thrive in such moments on the floor. There aren’t many other teams that can claim that, especially in the Eastern Conference.

There’s more from the Atlantic division:

  • Since joining the 76ers, Jimmy Butler is averaging the fewest minutes per game since his sophomore season and the fewest shot attempts since his third year in the league. However, as Keith Pompey points out for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Butler is focused on winning and leading the 76ers, especially in crunch time moments, which he has done several times this season.
  • After an injury derailed Caris LeVert‘s promising season, the Nets have struggled to bounce back as they have lost six straight games in a variety of ways. Brian Lewis of The New York Post writes about the team’s struggles since losing their leading guard.
  • Given those aforementioned struggles for the Nets and the fact that they actually own their first round draft pick this year, could it possibly be time for the team to tank? At least one writer from NetsDaily isn’t afraid to ask the tough question.

Nets Notes: Porter Jr., LeVert, Crabbe

This may be a good time for the Nets to make another attempt to acquire Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr., Brian Lewis of the New York Post opines. Porter signed a four-year, $106.5MM offer sheet with Brooklyn during the summer of 2017 but Washington matched it.

The Wizards have made Porter, who has disappointed since getting the big contract, available in trade talks, but there is reportedly little interest. Washington is on pace for a $14.6MM luxury-tax payment, in part due to that offer sheet, as Lewis notes, and could use some relief.

Brooklyn still needs a stretch four, a void that Porter could fill, though Porter’s contract also includes a 15% trade kicker. Presumably, the Nets could send Allen Crabbe or DeMarre Carroll and another player to Washington in order to make the salaries sufficiently match up, Lewis adds.

We have more on the Nets:

  • There’s no timetable on Caris LeVert‘s return to the court but he’s relieved his injury wasn’t as bad as initially feared, according to LeVert suffered a foot dislocation against the Timberwolves a week ago but is expected to return sometime this season. “I remember that night, when I got to the hospital, I didn’t get any sleep because I was just thinking the whole time, hoping it wasn’t as bad as it looked and how it felt,” he said. “But obviously I’m very blessed because it could have been a lot worse.”
  • Crabbe is finally showing signs of breaking out of his offensive funk, Lewis writes in a separate story. Crabbe is averaging just 7.0 PPG on 27.3% shooting but had a 15-point outing on Saturday. Crabbe is the team’s highest-paid player at $18.5MM and holds a player option at the same amount for next season. “The coaching staff tells me to keep shooting,” he said. “Nobody’s telling me to stop, so we’ve just got to keep at it ’til it clicks. Hopefully, it’s the first game in the right direction.”
  • Clippers forward Tobias Harris would be a sensible free agent target for the Nets. Read more about it here.

Caris LeVert Dislocates Foot, Expected To Return This Season

Nets swingman Caris LeVert, who underwent tests on Tuesday after leaving Monday’s game with a gruesome leg injury, has been diagnosed with a subtalar dislocation of the right foot, the team announced today in a press release. It’s good news for LeVert, who didn’t break any bones and hasn’t been ruled out for the entire 2018/19 season.

“Fortunately, tests performed this morning revealed that there are no fractures and only moderate ligament damage,” Nets orthopedist Dr. Martin O’Malley said in a statement. “While the optics of this injury may have appeared to be more severe, surgery will not be required. Caris will begin a period of rehabilitation with the Nets’ performance staff, following which he is expected to return to full strength and resume all basketball activities without any limitations this season.”

LeVert, who has dealt with foot injuries in the past, appeared to be in the midst of a breakout season until Monday’s injury. In 14 games, he had averaged 18.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG, and 3.7 APG, putting him in position to receive early consideration for this season’s Most Improved Player award.

LeVert almost certainly won’t be in the running for that honor anymore, since his latest foot injury will sideline him for a good chunk of the season. However, the fact that the Nets expect him to return to the court by the spring is great news, considering the injury initially looked like a sure bet to end his season. The 24-year-old remains a long-term building block for the franchise, as ESPN’s Zach Lowe details in an excellent piece today.

LeVert’s injury could open up the door for players like D’Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe, DeMarre Carroll, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to pick up some extra minutes, depending on how the Nets structure their lineups in his absence.

Caris LeVert Stretchred Off Court With Apparent Right Leg Injury

Nets forward Caris LeVert was stretchered off the court at Target Center with an apparent right leg injury and taken to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minnesota, YES Network’s Michael Grady reports.

“Caris LeVert sustained a right leg injury during the second quarter of tonight’s game at Minnesota,” the Nets said in an update. “LeVert is being taken to a local Minneapolis hospital where he will undergo a full evaluation. Further updates will be issued as available.”

Just seconds before halftime, LeVert went for a block and landed awkwardly on his right ankle. Several Nets players were visibly crying while Timberwolves players huddled together in prayer for the Brooklyn swingman. LeVert posted 10 points, five rebounds and four assists before the injury.

The injury looked similar to the gruesome left leg injury Celtics’ forward Gordon Hayward suffered last October. Just minutes into Boston’s season opener, Hayward landed awkwardly on his left leg and suffered a dislocated and fractured left tibia. Hayward underwent surgery and missed the entire 2017/18 NBA season.

LeVert, 24, has developed into a potent two-way threat for Brooklyn this season. In 14 games this season, the Michigan product has averaged 18.4 PPG, 4.2 RPG and 3.7 APG for the Nets while shooting 47.3% from the floor. The first-round pick (20th overall) from the 2016 NBA draft has developed into a key piece of the Nets’ future.

LeVert does have a history of foot injuries. He suffered a stress fracture in his left foot during his stint at the University of Michigan in May 2014. LeVert re-injured the same foot in January 2015 and missed the remainder of that collegiate season. He had been expected to be a top pick in the 2015 NBA draft.

The 6’7″, 200-pound forward once again suffered a left leg injury in his final season at Michigan, missing parts of three months and eventually undergoing his third surgical procedure in 22 months. The string of left leg injuries dropped LeVert’s draft stock, but he did end up being selected in the first round by the Pacers and being sent to the Nets in a trade for Thaddeus Young.

Nets Rumors: Butler, LeVert, Allen, Russell, RHJ

Although the Nets internally view Jimmy Butler as a top-10 or top-15 player in the NBA, the team resolved not to give up any of its prime assets for him once he became available, writes Michael Scotto of The Athletic. When Brooklyn briefly discussed the possibility of acquiring Butler in a trade, Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, and the team’s first-round pick were off-limits.

As Scotto details, general manager Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson have talked throughout their tenures about not “skipping steps” in the Nets’ rebuilding process. Sacrificing one or two of the club’s top young players or draft picks would have meant going for a quick fix, with no assurances that Butler would have stuck around beyond 2019.

Here’s more out of Brooklyn:

  • The Nets did kick the tires on Butler before the Timberwolves sent him to Philadelphia, having discussed a deal involving D’Angelo Russell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and salary filler, league sources tell Scotto. However, those talks didn’t gain any traction.
  • Scotto identifies Nikola Mirotic and Tobias Harris as two veteran forwards who may receive interest from the Nets during the summer of 2019. Brooklyn has long coveted a reliable stretch four, and Mirotic and Harris, who will both be unrestricted free agents next year, are capable of playing that role.
  • As he approaches restricted free agency, D’Angelo Russell is showing a little more consistency, particularly on the defensive end, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “His maturity, his consistency, that’s what we’re starting to see,” Kenny Atkinson said. “That’s the challenge for him. It’s not on-again, off-again. We need more on from him, and I think he’s starting to get over that hurdle. He looked really good physically, too, against Denver (on Friday). He really got after it.”

Atlantic Notes: LeVert, Valanciunas, Nets Prospects, Redick

Caris LeVert‘s impressive early-season performances could make the Nets a more attractive free agent destination, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer points out. The Nets guard, who is averaging 24.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG and 4.0 APG, is a versatile talent who can mesh with anyone because of his passing, cutting and spot-up shooting, O’Connor continues. Brooklyn’s front office looks smart for taking LeVert off the table in trade discussions with the Timberwolves for Jimmy Butler, O’Connor adds.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • There hasn’t been any grumbling from Raptors players who have seen their minutes reduced, Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun reports. Jonas Valanciunas, Norman Powell and Pascal Siakam, among others, will see their playing time fluctuate depending on the opponent. “We are sharing the minutes. We don’t know what matchups are going to come to us,” Valanciunas told Wolstat. “We have versatility. Just have different things for different matchups. We have different lineups, different people going at some different players.”
  • Nets draft-and-stash prospects Aleksandar Vezenkov and Isaia Cordinier are off to good start overseas, according to a post. Vezenkov, a 6’9” forward has played three Euroleague games for Olympiacos and is averaging 9.7 PPG and 3.3 RPG in 17.0 MPG. Cordinier, a 6’5” shooting guard who plays in the French League, returned to action on Friday after missing last season with knee tendinitis. It’s uncertain whether they’ll pursue NBA careers next season. Another draft-and-stash player, Juan Pablo Vaulet, was sent home by his Argentine team for undisclosed reasons.
  • Sixers guard J.J. Redick believes the Magic made a smart move by trading him to the Bucks five years ago, Josh Robbins of The Athletic reports. Redick was heading into unrestricted free agency at the time but would have liked to finish out that season with Orlando. He would have considered a long-term deal with the Magic that summer. Orlando acquired forward Tobias Harris and two other players in the deal. “The trade for Tobias was definitely in Orlando’s favor,” Redick told Robbins. “You get a guy who’s going to get you 18 [points] and 8 [rebounds] at 22, or whatever age Tobias was at the time. … Things obviously didn’t turn out great for them subsequently, but I think they made the right call.”

New York Notes: LeVert, Porzingis, Dinwiddie, Fizdale

Caris LeVert wasn’t guaranteed a spot in the Nets’ rotation heading into training camp, notes Michael Scotto of The Athletic, but through two games he looks like the early favorite for Most Improved Player. LeVert torched the Knicks for a career-high 28 points Friday night, including the game-winning shot. That followed a 27-point outburst against the Pistons in the season opener.

A month ago, LeVert was part of a large group in Brooklyn battling for playing time. He was competing with DeMarre Carroll, Joe Harris and Allen Crabbe at the wings and D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie and Shabazz Napier in the backcourt. LeVert’s transformation may be shocking to outsiders, but teammate Jarrett Allen said it has been building for a while.

“We saw it during the summer,” he said. “We knew it was coming, but coming out and playing like this not even we expected him scoring almost 30 points every night, but he’s coming out and showing all the work he’s done this summer is paying off.”
There’s more from New York City:
  • The rivalry between the Knicks and Nets may be more intense next summer than it is during the season, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Both teams should be in the running for lottery picks and both will have plenty of cap room to make a splash on the free agent market. Berman suggests that Brooklyn, which may be in position to offer two max contracts, could really heat things up by pursuing Kristaps Porzingis, who will be a restricted free agent after the deadline for an extension passed without a deal. The Nets can offer him a chance to play alongside fellow Latvian Rodions Kurucs.
  • If the Knicks can’t get a star to take a max offer, they could spend some of their money on Dinwiddie, Berman adds in the same piece. He notes that New York tried to work out a deal for the Nets guard in February, but decided the price was too high and opted for Emmanuel Mudiay instead.
  • David Fizdale’s relaxed exchanges with the media are a sign that a transformation has taken place among Knicks management, contends Harvey Araton of The New York Times. Owner James Dolan has produced a smothering environment among previous coaches, but Fizdale feels free to be open and honest in his assessment of players.

Nets Exercise 2019/20 Options On LeVert, Allen

The Nets have exercised their 2019/20 team options on the rookie contracts of Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen, the team announced today in a press release. The moves were mere formalities that come well in advance of the October 31 deadline.

Picking up LeVert’s fourth-year option will lock him in for 2019/20 with a very modest cap charge of $2,625,718. That’s a bargain for the 24-year-old, who is coming off a promising sophomore season in which he averaged 12.1 PPG, 4.2 APG, and 3.7 RPG with a .435/.347/.711 shooting line. He’ll be eligible for a rookie scale extension during the 2019 offseason.

As for Allen, his ’19/20 option, worth $2,376,840, is for his third NBA season — Brooklyn will have one more option decision to make on him next fall, for his fourth year (2020/21). The 20-year-old center averaged 8.2 PPG and 5.4 RPG in 72 games (31 starts) for the Nets as a rookie after being selected with the No. 22 pick in the 2017 draft.

Be sure to check out our tracker for a breakdown of all the decisions on 2019/20 rookie scale options that NBA teams must make by October 31.

Jimmy Butler Returns To Timberwolves’ Practice

Three weeks after his trade request went public, Jimmy Butler returned to the Timberwolves‘ facility and practiced with the team today, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

While Butler’s participation in practice doesn’t necessarily mean a trade won’t happen, it’s another indication that he won’t sit out once the regular season begins next week. Of course, that was never really a realistic option for Butler, since – as ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets – the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement features language that makes a holdout impractical.

According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), Butler was vocal during today’s practice, verbally challenging coaches, teammates, and the front office, including Tom Thibodeau, Scott Layden, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Andrew Wiggins. Woj describes the 29-year-old as “vociferous and emotional at times,” adding in a second tweet that at one point, Butler screamed at Layden, “You (bleeping) need me. You can’t win without me.”

As we relayed earlier today, the Timberwolves reached back out to the Rockets on Tuesday, and the Heat remain interested in rekindling talks with Minnesota, so those trade discussions figure to continue. However, reports throughout the process have indicated that Thibodeau would prefer to see Butler start the season with the Wolves. That scenario appears increasingly plausible now that the All-NBA wing is practicing with his teammates again, though perhaps the obvious tension in practice will make Thibodeau reconsider his stance.

Here are a few more of the latest notes on Butler:

  • Besides their discussions with the Heat, the Timberwolves have had no “serious, active talks” with any other team about Butler, league sources tell Wojnarowski.
  • According to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News, the Nets have been “timid” in their approach toward pursuing Butler, and have made Caris LeVert unavailable. Deveney also confirms that the Clippers are unwilling to include Tobias Harris in any offers, having instead proposed deals headlined by Danilo Gallinari or some combination of other players, such as Patrick Beverley, Milos Teodosic, and others.
  • Some league executives who spoke to Deveney expressed reservations about Butler’s potential locker room fit. “As good as Jimmy is, I think you have to be concerned about the impact he is going to have in the locker room, on your younger guys, on your coaching staff, all of that,” one general manager said. “He has gotten the benefit of the doubt, but if you look at his history, he’s had trouble getting along in Chicago and now in Minnesota. Everywhere he goes, it becomes about Jimmy, and if you’re going to bring him in, you have to account for that.”
  • Earlier today, we passed along details on the Timberwolves‘ discussions with the Rockets.