Brooklyn Nets: Caris LeVert still franchise’s most important player

Brooklyn Nets Caris LeVert. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets Caris LeVert. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Caris LeVert returned to the Brooklyn Nets lineup Friday night after missing 42 games and immediately showed why he’s the Nets’ most important player.

With 10:39 to go in the second quarter of Friday’s game against the Chicago Bulls,  there was a sudden burst of energy and excitement from the Barclays Center crowd. Guard Caris LeVert was at the scorers table waiting to check into the game for the Brooklyn Nets.

As the crowd and the Nets players rose for a standing ovation, it was clear how much LeVert was missed.

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Earlier this week, the Nets teased LeVert’s return on their mini-series The Bridge where the video showed LeVert working out and shooting in the Nets’ practice facility.

NBA insiders reported that the Nets were planning on activating him before the All-Star break, but when coach Kenny Atkinson officially said LeVert was good to go before the Chicago game, fans were eager to see their young budding star return.

LeVert had missed the previous 42 games with a dislocated foot that he suffered in November going for a block against the Minnesota Timberwolves. At the time, people thought the injury would keep him out the whole season.

Up to that point, Levert was having a breakout season averaging 18 points, four assists and four rebounds, shooting a career-high 47 percent from the field.

Before the game, Atkinson said LeVert would be on a minutes restriction and LeVert took advantage of his minutes in his return. In only 15 minutes of action, LeVert scored 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting, but his presence was mostly felt on the defensive end.

LeVert had five steals on the game, four of those coming in his first six minutes on the floor. The Nets struggled to guard anyone in their 125-106 loss to the lowly Bulls, but LeVert’s return was a welcome reminder that he is the Net’s most important player.

In LeVert’s absence, guards Spencer Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell picked up the slack. After an eight-game losing streak, the Nets got hot and surged up the Eastern Conference standings into the playoff race.

Last month, Dinwiddie had surgery on his thumb to repair ligaments and the Nets were reminded why LeVert was so valuable to this team.

LeVert is valuable to this team because he does a little bit of everything on the court. He can get his own shot, create shots for others, rebound and, most importantly, guard multiple positions –often the opposing team’s best wing.

He makes Atkinson’s job easier by creating opportunities for guys like Joe Harris, Dinwiddie and Russell to catch-and-shoot or cut to the rim. His chemistry with center Jarrett Allen in the pick-and-roll is also something that was missed in his absence.

LeVert was arguably the best player on the floor in his return, wreaking havoc on the defensive end and putting pressure on the Chicago defense with his aggressive drives to the basket and passes to open teammates.

LeVert was also a threat in the passing lanes as he forced many turnovers leading to fast break opportunities for the Nets.

LeVert looked quick and explosive in his time on the floor and didn’t look like he had any limitations after the injury. He was a little rusty from beyond the 3-point line but he was aggressive, created shots for his teammates and most importantly played well on both sides of the ball.

As much as Dinwiddie and Russell have carried the Nets since November, LeVert will be the most important player in these last 25 games.

As the Nets head into the All-Star break and continue through the remainder of the season, LeVert will be the key piece if the Nets want to make the playoffs. The Nets schedule after the All-Star break is littered with playoff opponents both on the road and at Barclays Center.

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As the Nets use these final two games before the break to get LeVert back in the swing of things, he will be counted on to produce the same way he did before the injury.