Brooklyn Nets: Caris LeVert turning corner at the right time

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) /

In a losing effort Monday night, Brooklyn Nets wing Caris LeVert showed he’s all the way back from the foot injury that cost him half the season.

It took almost two months from the time he made his return to the floor for the Brooklyn Nets, but Caris LeVert is all the way back from a horrific looking foot injury that wiped out more than half of his 2018-19 season.

The injury occurred just before halftime of the Nets’ Nov. 12 contest against the Minnesota Timberwolves in Minneapolis. LeVert challenged a transition layup attempt by rookie Josh Okogie, landed awkwardly and immediately knew something was wrong.

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His teammates blanched and looked away at the sight of their teammate sitting on the baseline holding his misshapen lower right leg up.

There were tears on the bench. There were more tears in the locker room at the half.

The news for LeVert was surprisingly good, what is termed a subtalar dislocation of the foot, with no accompanying broken bones or tears of the surrounding ligaments. A return to the court this season seemed likely.

LeVert missed 42 games before popping off the Nets’ bench during the second quarter of their Feb. 8 game at Barclays Center against the Chicago Bulls. He returned to a standing ovation and had a standout return, scoring 11 points with five steals and four assists in 15 minutes.

But for most of the following five weeks, LeVert struggled. It wasn’t his quickness, agility or explosive first step that was gone. Rather it was his rhythm and timing on his shot. He was getting to his spots fairly effectively, he just couldn’t finish once he did.

Over the first 18 games he was back, a stretch that included 10 starts, LeVert averaged just 9.0 points in 24.1 minutes per game and couldn’t buy a bucket at times, shooting just 34.8 percent overall and making only 24.2 percent of his 3.4 3-point attempts a game.

He showed signs of getting back to normal over the last three games, scoring at least 15 points in all of them — the first time since his return LeVert had hit double-figures in three straight games.

LeVert made it four straight on Monday, dropping in 24 points to go with a team-high six assists in Brooklyn’s 131-121 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

He had been the Nets’ leading scorer at the time he went down with the injury, averaging 18.4 points per game over the first 14 games of the season.

The 24 points were the most he’s had since returning from the injury and marked LeVert’s first outing with at least 20 points since dropping 26 in a win over the Phoenix Suns on Nov. 6. He had scored at least 20 points in seven of Brooklyn’s first 14 games.

LeVert was 8-for-15 on Monday and canned 4-of-8 from 3-point range while also going 4-for-6 at the foul line, while grabbing four rebounds — all on the offensive glass — in 30 minutes.

Coach Kenny Atkinson told the media it was the best LeVert has looked since the injury.

LeVert being back at his early-season form could be huge for the Nets over the final stretch of the regular season, with Brooklyn’s remaining schedule including the Toronto Raptors, the Bucks again, the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat, teams with a combined winning percentage of .633.

Per, that is the most difficult remaining schedule of any team in the NBA.

Over his last four games, LeVert has averaged 18.3 points, 4.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals while shooting 48 percent overall and 8-for-18 from deep (44.4 percent).

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That’s pretty darn close to where he was in mid-November before a bad fall changed the trajectory of his season.