3. Hornets to see LeVert for 1st time this season
Caris LeVert missed the first two meetings between the Brooklyn Nets and Charlotte Hornets this season and could be something of an X-factor as the teams meet for the third of four matchups having split the first two games.
Saturday will mark LeVert’s fifth game back from a dislocated right foot, but he could present a matchup problem for Charlotte, which will have to decide whether to use the bigger but slow-footed Nicolas Batum against LeVert or opt for the more athletic but inexperienced rookie Miles Bridges.
In either case, it would appear — at least on paper — the Nets should have an advantageous matchup. Either Batum will have to contend with LeVert’s explosive first step and vast array of herky-jerky moves off penetration or he’ll have to chase Joe Harris all over the place off screens.
As our Matt Brooks detailed, LeVert has not been spot-on in his first four games back, shooting just 36.2 percent from the floor and 20 percent on 3.8 3-point attempts per game since his return.
The last time Levert squared off against the Hornets in Charlotte was last March 8, and he scored 22 points with eight assists in 30 minutes off the bench, hitting 8-of-15 shots and making all five of his free throws in Brooklyn’s 125-111 victory at Spectrum Center.
Given how well LeVert was playing early this season before his campaign got sidetracked by a dislocated right foot, one has to think it’s just a matter of time and repetition before LeVert gets back his timing and feel for what to do offensively.
The issue is LeVert’s meshing with D’Angelo Russell as he resumes his place as the other starter in the backcourt. In the four games since his return, LeVert has shared the court with Russell for 58 minutes and the team is a minus-11 in that span.
The team is averaging 40.4 percent shooting overall and 35.9 percent from deep in those minutes.
Russell has similarly seemed to have trouble figuring out his game with LeVert back. While he’s averaged 25.3 points and 9.0 assists in those four games, he’s shooting only 39.3 percent overall and 25.6 percent on 9.8 3-point attempts per game.
Bringing back injured players is not always the simple process it can seem to be in video-game settings, as it involves rearranging rotations and reallocating minutes, disrupting routines that in LeVert’s case had been established in a little more than half a season’s worth of games — 42 to be exact — with the third-year pro in street clothes.
Saturday night is another opportunity for the Nets to inch closer toward getting things back to the new — and old — normal.