Brooklyn Nets: Caris LeVert return better than a deadline trade

Brooklyn Nets Caris LeVert. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets Caris LeVert. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Brooklyn Nets got the news they were waiting for Thursday — Caris LeVert will be in uniform and available Friday against the Chicago Bulls.

Coach Kenny Atkinson confirmed it Thursday: Caris LeVert will return from a 42-game absence after dislocating his right foot when the Brooklyn Nets host the Chicago Bulls on Friday.

With a little more than an hour before the 3 p.m. Eastern trade deadline, the Nets had not made any deals, but getting LeVert back after he’s missed basically half the season might be better than a deadline trade.

LeVert resumed 5-on-5 workouts this week and practiced the last two days with the Long Island Nets, Brooklyn’s affiliate in the NBA G League, in the final steps before being ready to return.

Atkinson confirmed LeVert’s availability early Thursday afternoon.

Brian Lewis of the New York Post reported that LeVert would be on an unspecified minutes restriction against the Bulls.

But even if general manager Sean Marks isn’t able to swing a deal before the deadline, getting LeVert back just before the All-Star break is very similar to that sort of shot in the arm.

LeVert is understandably happy to be back:

The Nets are 3-4 without Spencer Dinwiddie after beating the Denver Nuggets Wednesday night, a game in which Allen Crabbe made his first appearance after missing 26 games with a sore right knee.

Dinwiddie is still likely out for another two to four weeks after having surgery on Jan. 28 to repair torn ligaments in his right thumb.

But getting Crabbe and LeVert — particularly the latter — back into the rotation and eventually working LeVert back into the starting unit may be better than making a deadline trade.

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The Nets have played exactly three-quarters of their schedule thus far without LeVert, who played in 14 games before missing the next 42.

Brooklyn (29-27) has managed to keep the train on the tracks without the player who was leading the club in scoring at the time he was injured, putting together a 23-19 mark in the interim.

Considering the Nets were 2-10 in the first 12 games after LeVert was injured, that 21-9 stretch over the last 30 games has to be extremely encouraging to that locker room.

And, unlike a trade, there are no outgoing assets — either in the form of players or future draft picks.

Same adrenaline charge, zero cost.

The Nets broke a three-game losing streak with the win over Denver and are now two games ahead of the seventh-place Charlotte Hornets (26-28) and eighth-place Miami Heat (25-27) in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, with a 3½-game cushion over the ninth-place Detroit Pistons (24-29).

The Washington Wizards (22-32) essentially folded their tent on Wednesday, sending out Otto Porter and Markieff Morris in separate trades a day after learning John Wall — already out for the season following surgery on his heel — will miss at least the next 12 months after rupturing his Achilles in a fall at home.

The Orlando Magic (22-32) haven’t made any deals as of this writing and may be content to roll forward with what they have.

When the Nets get back Dinwiddie in a few weeks, they become one of those “teams no one wants to play in the first round” clubs with their ability to penetrate the paint with Dinwiddie, LeVert and D’Angelo Russell and to stretch the floor with Russell, Dinwiddie and Joe Harris.

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It’s not quite the same as adding a true stretch 4, but considering the gloomy outlook for LeVert immediately after he was injured on Nov. 12, this should be a big shot of jet fuel for Brooklyn’s postseason aspirations.