Since Caris LeVert returned from thumb surgery, his stats may be down, but the Nets’ energy level is up.
When LeVert went down with ligament damage in his right thumb, he was averaging 16.8 points, five rebounds and four assists. He missed 24 straight games before coming back, and has averaged 14.3 points, 2.8 boards and 2.3 assists since, but also given the Nets a boost.
“I think the numbers will get better,” Kenny Atkinson said. “His energy and how hard he plays, there’s no agenda there. It’s just, ‘I’m coming out, I’m going to play hard as heck and I’m going to attack.’ There’s no fear. It’s just an incredible injection of energy.
“Our activity on both ends goes up. If you had a meter what that looks like, it goes up. And within that, there’s some mistakes and there’s some missed shots; but we’ll live with that. I think it’s been a big injection of energy and his dynamic play is a big help.”
While Kyrie Irving went right back into the starting lineup Sunday after missing 26 straight himself, LeVert is still coming off the bench.
“I just try to come in and make plays. Whether I’m starting or coming off the bench, I pretty much have the same role: coming in, create some offense. Offensively, make plays for myself and others. Defensively, play extremely hard, know the coverages,” LeVert said.
“He doesn’t care. It’s almost to the point where I don’t have to talk to him about it. He’s like, ‘Man, second team, first team, starting, not starting, it doesn’t matter,’ ” Atkinson said. “He’s going to get minutes as he continues to build up. He’ll be in there at the end of the game most of the time. He’s cool with that. We have a great rapport.”
LeVert has only logged 30 minutes this season with Irving and Spencer Dinwiddie, and just 20 in the fourth quarter. They never appeared on the court together in Irving’s return Sunday, but it’s coming.
“Yeah, definitely,” LeVert said. “Especially with these games coming up, we got a tough stretch the next five games — Philly a couple times, Utah, LA — so this will be a good test for the team, for sure.”
LeVert will continue to wear the protecting wrap on his thumb for “another couple of weeks.”
Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot has impressed the coaches and front office with his play. He still has over a week left on his 45-day limit as a two-way player.
The Jazz roll into Barclays second in the West (27-12) and on a nine-game winning streak.
Since Dec. 11 the Jazz are 14-1 and tops in the NBA in Offensive Rating. Expect Dinwiddie to get first crack at trying to slow Utah star Donovan Mitchell, averaging 24.2 points per game.