Not long after Caris LeVert had surgery to remove a mass on his kidney, the Indiana Pacers wing is progressing toward a return to the court.
Pacers coach Nate Bjorkgren said LeVert, whom the Brooklyn Nets dealt to Indiana in the four-way trade that landed them James Harden on January 14, has been in the gym the last three or four days and observed practice Saturday, per Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News.
“He’s getting there,” Bjorkgren told reporters, per Winfield. “He’s walking around and moving around, and that’s a good start.”
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Trade From Nets May Have Saved LeVert’s Life
LeVert, 27, was a rising star with the Nets before he was dealt. He signed a three-year extension with Brooklyn worth $52.5 million in August 2019. He was averaging 18.5 points, 6.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds in 12 games this season before the trade.
Then his life changed when he was sent to the Pacers — but not in the way he expected.
During a physical that LeVert underwent as part of the trade process, an MRI revealed a small cancerous mass on his left kidney.
“Definitely humbled to know that this trade could have possibly saved me,” LeVert said during his introductory press conference, per ESPN.
Shortly after the mass was discovered, he had successful surgery to remove it. ESPN’s Ariel Helwani reported Wednesday that LeVert won’t require any further treatment.
No Timetable for LeVert’s Return Yet
There has been no decision whether LeVert will return this season, Bjorkgren said Saturday, per Winfield.
Still, LeVert’s quick return to the team is a significant and encouraging sign.
Indiana could have backed out of the deal with Brooklyn upon discovering the mass on his kidney. That they didn’t is revealing about how they view him as a person and player. It’s also an indication they hope he can return sooner rather than later.
“I’m super confident that we’re going to have him on the court. It may not be today that he can help us, but we do believe that he can help us in the not-so-distant future,” Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard said in January after the deal, per Forbes’ Tony East.
During his introductory press conference, LeVert said that he plans to make the most of his time away from playing.
“I think it will give me some time off to really evaluate the game, evaluate my body, [and] see what I need to do to fit into the system,” he said. “Obviously I want to play as soon as possible. I’m a competitor, I love to play the game. For me, I think making sure I’m good health wise is most important now.”