With Caris LeVert’s Return, D’Angelo Russell and Nets Face New Challenge
With the return of Caris Levert, the Nets will not only get a much needed boost, but a new challenge.
The 2018-2019 NBA Trade Deadline has come and gone and while some teams in playoff contention have brought in impact players for the right price, the surging Brooklyn Nets just recently got one back for free. That’s right. Caris LeVert, one of the teams best young players, returned to action on Friday when the Nets took on the Chicago Bulls at home. LeVert’s return is just under three months after he suffered what looked to be a gruesome right foot injury. Everyone thought he had broken his leg and it looked like his season was over. Thankfully, the basketball gods smiled down on LeVert, as he was diagnosed with a dislocated foot. No surgery was required and he was able to start rehabbing the injury immediately.
Speaking of the Nets, they’ve managed to defy everyone’s expectations this season despite LeVert’s injury. They currently stand with a record of 29-28, good enough for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. This includes a stretch in the middle of the season where they went 20-6, one of the best records in the entire NBA over that span. However, they’ve recently hit a bit of a cold stretch since that span, losing four of their last five games. This was expected, as the Nets weren’t going to finish the rest of the season on the kind of hot streak they were on. Furthermore, the Nets are now missing their sixth man, Spencer Dinwiddie, who just recently had surgery on his right thumb to repair torn ligaments, which will have him out for four to six weeks.
So it’s obvious that the timing of Caris LeVert’s return couldn’t be better. Back when the season began, LeVert was arguably the best player on the team. In his 14 games before the injury, he averaged 18.4 points per game on .475 percent shooting. Getting a player of his caliber back for free is about as good of a deadline boost the Nets can ask for.
However, with getting LeVert back poses a whole new challenge for the Nets. Remember, not long after he first went down, Brooklyn went on an eight game losing streak, a stretch where they would fail to close out multiple close games. It’s obvious that the team wasn’t used to playing without LeVert at the time. Despite this, thanks to a players-only film session, the Nets were able to figure it out and went on a run.
Now, the same way the Nets had to get used to playing without LeVert, they have to get used to playing with him again. Obviously, since LeVert just returned from his injury, his minutes will be limited for a bit. This is great for the Nets, as it will not only give LeVert a chance to slowly get back into form, it gives the team time to get him back into the system.
Most of all, this will be yet another test for Brooklyn’s up and coming star, D’Angelo Russell. Russell has had an outstanding season, averaging 19.8 points and 6.5 assists per game on respectable shooting splits of .435/.375/.829. The 22-year old was recently rewarded for his performance with his first ever selection to the NBA All-Star team. Of all the reasons for the Nets success this season, the play of D’Lo is probably the biggest reason.
Now with Caris LeVert’s return, D’Angelo Russell will now face his next big challenge of not just his season, but his career. That is keeping up his level of play while also allowing Levert to get back to 100 percent. It’s worth noting that before LeVert went down, Russell was averaging just 16.5 points and 5.1 assists per game on just .413 shooting. When LeVert returns to full strength, he’s going to take the ball out of Russell’s hands a little bit more than he’s used to at this point. Meaning it’s going to be up to D’Lo to make the necessary adjustments to keep up his All-Star level production while also sharing the ball with his right hand man.
Caris LeVert’s return from injury is undeniably a great boost for the Nets. A team that’s in a bit of a slump not long after being red hot could use his presence back. However, LeVert’s return will also be the team’s next challenge as they try to make a playoff push.
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