Brooklyn Nets: Kyrie Irving offers words of encouragement for Caris LeVert

Brooklyn Nets, Kyrie Irving

The Brooklyn Nets are without roughly half their roster in the NBA bubble due to a combination of injuries and players opting out of play. Subsequently, those present have assumed larger workloads in head coach Jacque Vaughn’s rotation, one of them being Caris LeVert.

In the six games he has appeared in since the regular season resumed, LeVert has averaged 25.0 points, 6.7 assists and five rebounds per game while shooting 48.0 percent from the field.

Kyrie Irving is among the Nets players absent from the bubble, but the star point guard has offered LeVert words of encouragement (quotes per Marc Berman of the New York Post).

“I talked to Ky [on Friday] morning, talked about the games and playoffs coming up and giving me encouragement,’’ LeVert said on a Zoom call Saturday. “He’s watching all the games. He’s been in this position before, fighting for something.’’

The Nets took the Portland Trail Blazers, who were playing to get into the NBA playoffs, to the final buzzer of their Thursday night matchup. Despite losing 134-133, there were positives for the Nets to build on, specifically LeVert’s performance.

The homegrown first rounder finished with 37 points, nine assists and six rebounds while shooting 16-of-29 from the field. LeVert finished the 2019-20 NBA regular season averaging 18.7 points, 4.4 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game while shooting 42.5 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from beyond the arc.

Vaughn feels Irving reaching out to LeVert is “huge.”

“It’s huge Caris got a call from Ky — that’s a great thing this isn’t an individual sport,’’ Vaughn said. “Just because we don’t have the group with us, doesn’t mean they can’t be part of it. Caris appreciated that.’’

The Nets finished the regular season 35-37, which is good for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, and 5-3 in the bubble. They’ll begin their first-round series matchup with the second-seeded and defending NBA-champion Toronto Raptors on Monday. Tipoff is at 4 p.m.

Brooklyn Nets confident they can hang with Toronto Raptors

Brooklyn Nets, Caris Levert

The Brooklyn Nets, 34-36, recently clinched the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. They’re currently slated to face off with the defending NBA-champion Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs.

Despite going 1-3 against their divisional rival this season, the Nets feel they have a chance to knock out the Raptors.

Caris LeVert says if the Nets “move the ball well” and “play good defense” they can win the series (quotes per Brian Lewis of the New York Post).

“We know they’re a really good team. Obviously they’re playing good basketball, they move the ball really well, they’re a great defensive team, as well,” Caris LeVert said. “But for us, we feel like it’s about us. If we move the ball well, if we play good defense, if we’re locked into the game plan, we can win that series. We truly believe that. So we’re gonna go into that playoff matchup all the way locked in.”

The Nets are without Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan, Taurean Prince, Wilson Chandler, Nic Claxton, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in the NBA bubble. Despite the aforementioned absences, the Nets have pulled off a handful of impressive victories which include beating the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Clippers.

One of the new faces for the Nets is guard Tyler Johnson. Johnson says that if the Nets play their “style of basketball” they can beat anybody.

“As far as going into Toronto, you know what to expect. Then again, there’s no homecourt advantage. You’re playing a basketball team in the same spot for however many games it takes to advance,” Johnson said. “For us, it’s continue to play our style of basketball. At this point, we understand that, if we do that, we’re capable of beating anybody, and we showed it.”

Garrett Temple says if the Nets, who are 4-2 in the bubble, continue to “share the ball” and “get stops” they can win some games.

“To clinch seventh was big for us, obviously. We wanted to play whoever was going to be in that second spot, obviously it’s Toronto. We feel confident,” Garrett Temple said. “We’re confident. If we play the right way, if we play like we’ve been playing the last 2 or 3 games, share the ball, get stops, even though they turn people over, if we’re able to take care of it and do what we’ve been doing, we have a chance to win some games.”

Jacque Vaughn is 6-2 since taking over as interim head coach in March.

Brooklyn Nets: Does Culture Win Championships?

Brooklyn Nets, Kyrie Irving

It wasn’t supposed to come to this, but that isn’t a bad thing. 

In a newfound problem for the Brooklyn Nets, that exclusively applies to teams with top-flight talent, a power struggle has emerged within the organization. After a 2018-2019 campaign that saw an 8-18 beginning turn on the back of D’Angelo Russell, the Brooklyn Nets established a culture that made fans forget recent years of despair that was doomed by the infamous 2013 trade with the Boston Celtics. 

Culture became a buzzword for the Nets front office and fans as their overachieving 42-40 record offered promise after entering the season with diminished expectations and a self-proclaimed “system” that had produced little in the way of results. 

Caris Levert’s gruesome injury halted his promising start to the season, leaving behind a shattered locker room looking for a leader to step up. Through the wreckage emerged D’Angelo Russell, who along with a bunch of former cast-offs, guided the team through an obstacle-filled season. For this, Russell earned a spot on the Eastern Conference all-star team. 

Developing right next to Russell was his backup, Spencer Dinwiddie, who had proven to be a mismatch nightmare, seeking out big men and delivering the highest point per possession totals in the NBA throughout the season. Also making a rise from the scrap heap was Joe Harris, who developed a well-rounded game to make him a mainstay in lineups to close out games.

This was a welcome sight for coach Kenny Atkinson and general manager Sean Marks, who finally saw results after two tumultuous seasons at the helm. Rather than continuing to accumulate assets in hopes of striking a diamond in the rough, the Nets were suddenly in a position of power, with high-profile stars being linked to them consistently and public perception changing in a very vocal manner around the league. 

The veterans on the team were thorough in their praise of coach Atkinson, citing the system he developed as instrumental in helping the team blend perfectly and play to their strengths at all times. 

The signings of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Deandre Jordan on June 30 changed the landscape of the league, as the cellar-dwelling Brooklyn Nets were catapulted into the top-tier of basketball as a team with the firepower to push through the Eastern conference and go toe to toe with the fearsome superstars of Los Angeles out West. 

Durant and Irving have openly discussed the allure of a solid culture in their decision to come to Brooklyn. Since their signings, however, they have been behind many decisions that indicate their desire to rid the team of their old regime and insert their power in a way that has become customary for superstars around the league. The culture-oriented Nets are now at a crossroads, with each passing decision serving as a reminder that this league is run by superstars. 

When pressured by Durant and Irving, Marks nixed the idea of bringing in Carmelo Anthony, who at the time, had been shunned by all 30 teams in his attempt to make it back onto a roster. Although Marks was able to put his foot down in this instance, the subsequent firing of Kenny Atkinson beckoned the question: does culture win championships, or it is the superstars that do? The relevance of this conflict is an indictment of where the league stands. The players hold all the power

Perhaps Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant understand after seeing Atkinson’s style that he does not possess the qualities of a championship-level coach, and to me, that’s okay. After all, when you have the opportunity to sign two superstars after being mired in mediocrity, you hand them the keys and let them drive the franchise wherever they see fit. 

 

Brooklyn Nets: Get Bradley Beal at all Costs

New York Knicks, Marcus Morris

Flashback seven years ago, the newly located Brooklyn Nets are stuck as a second-tier team. Led by Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, the options are clear: make a push for a championship that mortgages the future or tear down the roster and rebuild with a stockpile of assets. On draft night in June 2013, the front office made their choice. In a trade that has haunted the franchise for the majority of the decade, the Nets acquired Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, two pieces they hoped would catapult them into real contenders. 

After recent reports surfaced Thursday that the Nets have interest in adding star Bradley Beal to the fold, deja vu struck in the minds of many Nets fans. Just as the Nets quickly built a contender in 2012, they have done so again. As Williams and Lopez were exiting their primes, the team attempted to surround them with a desperate accumulation of talent. Durant and Irving may have already seen their best days, but that is where the similarities end. They represent a higher class of superstardom, one that can objectively compete against the most high-profile names in the league. Adding a superstar entering his prime would fuel a championship run without stripping the franchise of all future assets. 

When it comes to perfect additions for this complicated Nets roster, it doesn’t get more seamless than Beal. His immense versatility would allow him to fit in next to Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in a way that most stars would not be able to. 

“I can put him in any situation, and he understands it at a high level,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “I can use him as a decoy, and he understands why I’m using him as a decoy. I can use him in pick and rolls and pin downs and in the post.” 

Playing with two superstars who can break down any defense would offer Beal more open three-pointers than he’s seen at any other point in his career. As a 38% three-point shooter over the course of his eight-year career, he also presents a perimeter reputation that would open up lanes for Durant and Irving to get the rim without the worry of help coming off of the shooters. With Durant coming off a major Achilles injury and Irving dealing with several maladies in previous seasons, Beal would provide necessary durability to a roster lacking in it. He hasn’t missed a game in the previous three seasons, proving to be one of the most dependable stars the league has, especially in the era of player preservation. This would afford Durant and Irving the ability to play relaxed with less of an onus on scoring, which would limit the wear and tear of a grueling NBA season as they geared up toward a run at a championship. Beal’s ability to come off screens and dribble handoffs as a scoring threat would make him a perfect partner with Deandre Jordan, a big-bodied screener who excels with playmaking guards as an explosive roll man to keep the defense honest. 

The big concern out of Brooklyn is the fragility of their two superstars, who are constantly in the headlines for the wrong reasons. It would behoove Sean Marks to add a star with a stabilizing personality to the mix. 

When asked about his relationship with Beal, Wizards co-star John Wall said “We’re just building a bond. We always joke and have fun. We play cards on the plane with each other. All that stuff equaled up to us making a better bond. We never disliked each other. There are times on the court where you are going to dislike a player. You want the ball. They want the ball”

The fight Beal displays on the court indicate a level of competitiveness that carries teams to basketball glory. A desire to win games and compete as well as capable drives the great ones. As Wall stated clearly, Beal is an excellent teammate both on and off the court. 

Parting with Caris Levert, Spencer Dinwiddie and Jarrett Allen may seem like a tough ask for the Brooklyn Nets front office, but consider this: when envisioning the Nets lineup closing out games, which of these guys do you want out on the floor? Dinwiddie struggled mightily when paired with D’Angelo Russell last season and with Kyrie Irving this season. Without the ball in his hands, he provides little in the way of positive value on the court. He isn’t a particularly strong defender or spot-up shooter, making him a less than ideal fit in a closing lineup where he won’t have the ball in his hands. Levert has flashed glimpses of greatness for the entirety of his career, but injuries and an inconsistent jump shot have hindered his development. His lack of a consistent long-range shot would allow defenses to focus on Durant and Irving driving to the hoop, clogging the lane, and leaving them little opportunity to score at the rim. Allen’s inability to develop a consistent offensive game makes him a trade piece for the Nets. His benching in early March, in the first game after Kenny Atkinson was fired, was an indication about how the coaching staff and stars on the team felt about his value. Since his rookie year he has been a rim-running center who can protect the rim on defense but does not provide much else. While he is a solid big man for any rotation, this makes him expendable. At just 26 years old and now entering his prime, Beal himself would account for the lost young talent it would take to acquire him in a deal.

With Beal added to the fold, the Brooklyn Nets would become instant title favorites. Possessing three superstars in a league that is currently controlled by duos would give the Nets a considerable edge to close out games. Putting out Irving, Beal, and Durant to pair with sharpshooter Joe Harris would give the Brooklyn Nets a fearsome foursome that would compliment each other’s skillsets perfectly. Beal would add overwhelming talent for a Nets team that is looking to win their first NBA championship while leading the franchise for years to come. If the Wizards make Bradley Beal available in trade discussions, the Nets should engage immediately, no matter the cost.

Brooklyn Nets: Three Reasons to Look Forward to 2020-21 Season

Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets

With the 2019-20 NBA season’s return looking bleak, I thought it would be appropriate for us to begin looking forward to next year. There is no team with more hype and uncertainty surrounding them than the Brooklyn Nets. Assuming the Nets don’t make any major moves this off-season (big assumption here) let’s break down 3 reasons that Nets fans should be excited for next year.

3 Reasons for Nets Fans to Look Forward to Next Season

3. THE DEVELOPMENT OF NIC CLAXTON – Claxton showed flashes of brilliance during his rookie season with the Nets, but unfortunately received limited time with the team and was held in the G-League for most of the year. Still, Nets fans are excited to see what this sophomore will be able to do when given the chance. Claxton’s lengthy wingspan of 7’2.5 and his ridiculous athletic ability makes him a viable future option for the Brooklyn Nets at the power forward position. While he may not be as explosive as a Jarrett Allen or Deandre Jordan, his agility is extremely impressive for someone his height and he can prove to be a nightmare on the boards paired with Allen or Jordan.

2. THE RISE OF CARIS LEVERT – Now in his 4th season in the NBA, Caris LeVert is finally starting to come into his own. As one of the primary scoring threats for Brooklyn down the stretch, LeVert was incredible, averaging 20.6 ppg in his last 10 games of the season. His notable moments this season consisted of putting up 51 in a win against the Celtics in one of greatest 4th quarter performances in recent memory and notching his 1st career tripe double in what ended up being Kenny Atkinson’s final game as Nets head coach. He also looked much more confident shooting the 3 balls this season, hitting 38% of his attempts, the highest % of his career. LeVert, who is known for doing most of his scoring off the dribble, will have to work on his off-the-ball game as he appears to be 3rd in the offensive pecking order behind Kyrie and KD. It will be fun to see how LeVert can do produce in this star-studded offense.

1. THE RETURN OF KEVIN DURANT & KYRIE IRVING – This is what many Nets fans have been waiting to see since KD and Kyrie made their announcement in July last year; the vision of one of the games greatest scorers of all time being paired with one of the elite scoring point guards in our game today. We saw what Durant was able to do playing with Curry and Thompson in Golden State, it shouldn’t be a stretch to think him and Kyrie can dominate the East in a similar fashion, especially if the supporting cast is able to buy-in. Kyrie and Durant will be a dynamic pairing for several reasons – both have the ability to create their own shot in any given situation, both have proven to be clutch in their career, and maybe the most important factor of all, both guys are out to PROVE something to the rest of the league. And both stars left their previous team with a sour taste in their mouth. Now the two have a chance to lead Brooklyn to a championship together.

Follow @firesidenets on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for your latest Brooklyn Nets news and listen to the Fireside Nets w/ Spen & Nick podcast!

Brooklyn Nets: Top 5 Moments during the 2019-20 Season

Brooklyn Nets, Caris LeVert

This tumultuously shortened NBA season has been a roller coaster ride for Brooklyn Nets fans. From Kyrie Irving being hurt for a good portion of the year, to Brooklyn moving on from head coach Kenny Atkinson, the Nets have definitely had their fair share of low moments this year. Even Kevin Durant took a big L last night when Derrick Jones Jr. demolished him in the first round of the players-only NBA 2K tournament on ESPN. With all that said, there have been a ton of special moments this year that should have Nets fans excited headed into next season, and I wanted to highlight several of those moments here.

Listen to Fireside Nets w/ Spen & Nick 

Top 5 Moments of 2019-20 Season for Brooklyn Nets

10/25/19Kyrie Irving hits big shot to beat crosstown rival New York Knicks

After dropping 50 points in his Nets debut and losing a heartbreaker to Minnesota, Irving had a chance to redeem himself in just the second game of the season. In a back and forth battle with the Knicks in Madison Square Garden, Kyrie hit the go-ahead three-pointer with just 22 seconds left in regulation over rookie RJ Barrett to put the Nets up by two and help secure the eventual 113 – 109 victory. To many Nets fans, this was Kyrie’s first “welcome to Brooklyn” moment, since beating the Knicks is an important goal every season for Brooklyn, who often plays little brother to the historic Manhattan-based franchise in the headlines.

12/21/19 – Dinwiddie & the Nets beat Atlanta in Brooklyn despite Trae Young’s 47 points with Kobe and Gianna Bryant in attendance

This was a special game for many reasons. Let’s start with the fact that this was one of the last times we were able to see Kobe and Gianna at a public sporting event together and spawned the popular video of the two breaking down the game together. The 2nd major story-line was that this was most likely Vince Carter’s last appearance against the Nets in Brooklyn, a player who provided many highlights and stellar play for Nets fans during his tenure in New Jersey earlier in his career.

And last but not least, the game itself was incredible! The Nets came back from 13 down headed into the 4th quarter to win in a tightly-contested battle, despite a 47 point effort from Trae Young. Dinwiddie played one of his best games of the season, dropping 39 points in their 122 – 112 win. Spencer had extra motivation that night, mentioning that before the game, Bryant, who was Dinwiddie’s favorite player of all time, had told him he was “playing like an all-star.” In the post-game interview, Dinwiddie spoke about how special the win was in front of Kobe and even joked about how he was mad at himself for not getting to 40.

1/31/20Kyrie drops 54 on Bulls in Nets Win following the tragic death of his friend/mentor Kobe Bryant 

We all process grief and mourn differently. When news circulated regarding the shocking death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, Kyrie Irving chose to take some time off from basketball, a decision completely understandable given the relationship between the two. Kyrie viewed Kobe as a mentor; Kobe was actually the first person Irving called after he won his NBA championship in 2016 with Cleveland. When Kyrie decided he was ready to come back and play, he put what Bryant had taught him to good use.

The Nets point guard was electric in his return against the Bulls, scoring 54 points on 19-23 shooting in a convincing 133 – 118 win. He even received MVP chants from the crowd at Barclays. After the game, Kyrie spoke on how he was able to play through the grieving process: “It’s an open wound. But I think just coming out here knowing that this is a place where we connected on a deeper scale, it makes a lot of sense, what’s happening.” ESPN Game Recap by Associated Press

3/11/20Dinwiddie and the Nets shock Lakers in the final game of the shortened season

Coming off a three-game home stretch in which they went 2-1 against lesser competition, critics did not expect much from the Nets on the road against a Lakers team at full strength, especially with an interim coach in Jacque Vaughn still figuring out his rotations. In what would turn out to be the final game of Brooklyn’s shortened season, the Nets delivered with one of their best team wins in recent memory.

The momentum in the game went back and forth the entire night, with the Nets winning the 2nd and 3rd quarters to build a substantial lead heading into the 4th.  Being the elite superstars that they are, Lebron and AD stormed their way back into the game, tieing Brooklyn down the stretch at 102. Spencer Dinwiddie, who had 23 on the night, hit the go-ahead jumper over Avery Bradley with 28.3 seconds to put the Nets up by two. Anthony Davis had a chance to win the game for the Lakers with a wide-open look from three, but he clanked the shot off the back of the rim, and the Nets were able to hold on for a 104 – 102 victory. LeVert added 22 points of his own and finished the shortened season on a high note, playing the best basketball of his young career. Moving forward, LeVert will either be the 3rd star on this Brooklyn Nets team next year, or he will be a valuable trade asset for Sean Marks in the off-season.

Caris LeVert goes off against the Celtics for 51 points in Overtime Win

With the Celtics up double digits in the 4th and as much as 21 points in the second half, Nets fans (myself included) were ready to chalk this game up as a loss. The team had been defeated in their last four games, and Atkinson had most of his bench players on the court, basically surrendering the game, before subbing Caris LeVert into the game in the 4th. And then something magical happened.

Levert turned into a scoring machine in the 4th quarter, pouring in 26 points, including nailing all three free throws (after Marcus Smart had fouled him attempting a three) to tie the game up with .02 seconds left and complete their comeback in regulation. In overtime, the former Michigan Wolverine would go on to score all 11 points for the Nets to close out a 129 – 120 win, and LeVert finished the game with a career-high 51 points on 17 of 26 from the field. The Celtics had zero answers on defense, as LeVert torched the Celtics possession after possession by scoring in a variety of ways. Three-point shot off the dribble? Money. One-footed step back from the elbow? Cash. Finishing at the basket with contact? You betcha. LeVert single-handedly won a game that easily should have been a loss for the Brooklyn Nets.

The lesson here? No matter how much you’re down in the fight, don’t give up – there’s always a chance.

BONUS MOMENT: All 4 Nets players diagnosed with Coronavirus in mid-March, including Kevin Durant, are now all symptom-free after self-isolating for the last 14 days. While they will continue to quarantine themselves, this is the best possible news we can receive regarding the health of these players.

Stay tuned for the date of the tournament to be announced. Follow @firesidenets on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for your latest Brooklyn Nets news and listen to the Fireside Nets w/ Spen & Nick podcast!

Brooklyn Nets: Spencer Dinwiddie insists Caris LeVert is a part of their essential team

Brooklyn Nets, Caris LeVert

With the remainder of the 2020 NBA season in flux, the next time we see basketball could be in 2021 or toward the very end of the year. Social gatherings are becoming more scarce as the coronavirus makes its way through cities and communities. The Brooklyn Nets, however, have received good news on the pandemic front.

Four Nets players who were previously infected with the virus have been cleared, according to GM Sean Marks.

“So far, everybody is healthy. The guys that were, that tested positive, have cleared their 14 days self-isolation and quarantine,” Marks said Wednesday in a conference call. “They’re still practicing with social distancing like the rest of us. They are cleared like everybody, like the rest of the team and the staff right now.”

Thankfully all of the players are healthy and have overcome the virus. The next narrative on the balled is Caris LeVert, and if he’s an essential part of the team moving forward.

Nets star Spencer Dinwiddie expressed his confidence in LeVert, stating:

“Obviously he’s our third star. Major piece of the team,” Dinwiddie said.

Kyrie Irving, who stated that the team needs more pieced if they plan to contend for a championship, implied that the team needs to go out and either trade for more draft capital or sign bigger free agents. However, the return of Durant ‘should’ provide sufficient quality along with Irving, Dinwiddie, and LeVert to compete daily in the NBA.

The biggest knock on LeVert, though, is his injury history, suggesting he could be a better trade piece next offseason. His injury history is well known, considering his 42 straight missed games in 2019 and 24 games this season with a thumb injury. Sometimes, it’s better t cash in on injury-prone players while they still have value instead of waiting for them to pick up something significant.

Nets Snag Best Win of Season vs Los Angeles Lakers

Spencer Dinwiddie, Brooklyn Nets

Oh man, what a way to start a road trip. The Lakers, coming off weekend wins against the Bucks and the Clippers, fell to the Brooklyn Nets yesterday, 104 – 102, in one of the more exciting games this season. Brooklyn played inspired basketball against one of the hottest teams in the NBA, featuring one of the hottest players right now in Lebron James, and came out victorious.

What went right for Brooklyn last night?

At the start of the game, it seemed as though only 2 Nets players had shown up to play. Caris Levert, who has recently demonstrated an intensity and efficiency to his game that we have not seen from him before this year, continued his stellar play.  But it was backup point guard/G League call up Chris Chiozza, who helped steady the Nets in that 1st quarter, giving them great minutes with Dinwiddie on the bench. The Florida alum was sensational, displaying a barrage of smooth, crisp passes to open teammates. Chiozza finished with 11 points and five assists in 17 minutes. Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris got it going in the 2nd quarter, cutting a Lakers 11 point lead to 2 point lead right before the half.

Then in the 3rd quarter, everything started clicking for the Nets. The defense picked up for Brooklyn, as they were able almost to shut down everybody on the Lakers except Lebron, and they outscored LA 31 – 22 in the 3rd. Everyone from Caris Levert to Timothe Luwawu – Cabarrot made plays both on offense and defense. The Nets went into the 4th with a surprising 87-80 lead, something they haven’t done a great job at protecting this year.

The 4th quarter was electrifying. Anthony Davis came alive and, along with Lebron, carried the Lakers back to tie the game at 102 with a little under 50 seconds left. Dinwiddie, who had been called for offensive fouls on two of the last several possessions, isolated Avery Bradley and hit a tough go-ahead jumper on the left elbow to put Brooklyn up 2. After a Lebron missed a layup and 2 missed free throws by Deandre Jordan, the Lakers got the ball back down 2 with 5 seconds left with a chance to tie or win. Brooklyn fans gasped as Lebron drove down the lane and kicked it to a wide-open Anthony Davis in the corner for a 3 to win the game, but fortunately, Davis clunked the shot and sealed the upset for Brooklyn.

Key performances for the Nets:

Caris Levert: 22 points & 7 boards    Spencer Dinwiddie: 23 points & 7 assists

Joe Harris: 12 points                            Timothe Luwawu – Cabarrot: 13 points

This was a significant win for Brooklyn not only for the guys on the court but for Kevin Durant to witness off the court, who traveled with the team on this four-game California road trip. KD and Kyrie need to see this team win without them, especially against a juggernaut like the Lakers. Vaughn has been impressive in his short tenure as coach with rotations, and the Nets have put forth a fantastic team effort for him in these last few games.

The Nets play the Warriors on Thursday at 10:30 pm EST (who will most likely honor KD in some type of way) followed by the Clippers on Friday night and the Kings on Sunday.

Caris Levert Drops Career high 51 in Nets comeback win over Celtics

Brooklyn Nets, Caris Levert

Through three-quarters last night, it seemed as though the Brooklyn Nets were headed for their 5th straight loss. Down 84-67 against the Celtics on the road headed into the 4th, this struggling Brooklyn squad needed a miracle. Insert Caris Levert.

Levert Brilliant in Nets Huge 4th quarter

The Nets, in dire need of a spark, were able to rally behind the stellar play of Caris Levert.  Levert became an assassin in the 4th quarter, dazzling and scoring at will against a tough Celtics defense.  Three-pointers, reverse layups, off-balanced one-footed jumpers, Levert couldn’t be stopped. The Nets put up a franchise-best 51 points in the 4th, the most the team has ever scored in any quarter in franchise history.  Levert was responsible for 26 of that 51, including 3 clutch free throws to tie the game with .02 seconds left.  In overtime, Caris scored all 11 of Brooklyn’s points, the most by any player in the past 20 seasons, and led the Nets to a spectacular 129-120 win over the Celtics.

The former Michigan star ended the game with a career-high 51 points on 17 of 26 from the field, 5 of 10 from 3-point land, 12-18 on free throws, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1 steal in only 25 minutes of play. After the game, teammate Kevin Durant showed Levert some well-deserved love, tweeting “that 50 was beautiful Vert. Thank you for that masterpiece.”

The other unsung hero of this game was Chris Chiozza, who played 21 big minutes down the stretch and finished with 8 points, scoring some big buckets with Dinwiddie sidelined in the 4th for reasons unknown. Atkinson went with an interesting lineup in the 4th, playing Kurucs, Chiozza, Jordan, Levert, and Taurean Prince down the stretch.

Unfortunately, losing the game was the least of the Celtics concerns, as their players dropped like flies over the course of the night. Already playing without Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward suffered a right knee contusion shortly before halftime.  Jaylen Brown was seen grabbing his hamstring late in the game. And Kemba Walker, who wasn’t able to play in overtime since he was playing on a minutes restriction, didn’t look 100% in his first game back from injury. All 4 players may not travel to Cleveland tomorrow for the Celtics back to back.

The Nets will hope to carry this momentum at home tomorrow when Ja Morant and the Grizzlies come to town.

Brooklyn Nets: Big Contract Plus Injuries, Caris LeVert Remains To Be A Risk

Brooklyn Nets, Caris Levert

Last August on his birthday, Brooklyn NetsCaris LeVert accepted a 3-year, $52.5 million-dollar contract extension with the Brooklyn Nets. Midway through his fourth season at the young age of 25, LeVert continues to be a bright prospect with plenty of raw talent (ESPN).  However, at the very same time, many have yet to really see his potential blossom and come to fruition.  Essentially, it’s really hard not to wonder if Caris LeVert is one of the newest youngsters to join the “Getting Paid Too Much Too Soon” club of players in NBA history.

In four seasons with the NBA, Caris has never played a full 82 games; in fact, he’s managed to play over 70 games just once in his career (ESPN).  So far, this season hasn’t been much different.  LeVert just came back on January 4th from a thumb injury after being sidelined since early November last year (ESPN).

The inevitable fact with Caris LeVert is that this contract decision was a big risk at a substantial cost.  Health is such a fickle component of the game of basketball, and the Nets have grown to understand that more than any other team in the league with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Caris missing so much time collectively.  However, the difference between those three players is that Caris is no Kyrie and no KD.  It’s understandable to be patient with two mega superstars, but Caris has so much yet to prove, and that can only be exposed with consistency which he hasn’t been able to deliver.

Despite getting more minutes and scoring more points, dropping 15.6 ppg with 4.1 RPG in 14 games played, Caris LeVert remains to be a vulnerable and unpredictable situation that the Nets need to manage and structure properly (ESPN).  And the best way to maximize his worth is to make Caris LeVert their new Sixth Man.  This will not only grant LeVert ample minutes to grow and produce but will also not be overloading, a physical burden that could jeopardize his playing time.

In addition, Caris needs to be placed in a role that caters to his strength.  LeVert is a tough fit with ball-dominant scorers Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the mix.  And much like both these superstars, Caris is a scoring talent himself that not only would be hindered by both Kyrie and KD’s offensive production but would also restrain the tandem’s ability to maximize their demand and output.  Playing alongside Kyrie and KD amongst the starters next season essentially wouldn’t allow LeVert to embrace what he’s good at, which is scoring.

Let’s look, for example, at how valuable the standout shooting guard and multiple Sixth Man Award Winner Lou Williams has been for a star-studded Clippers team this year: he’s currently dropping 20 ppg with over 6 APG off the bench (ESPN).  It’s an underappreciated role that is vital to have on a championship-caliber team.  And for someone that has had such a hard time staying healthy, the Sixth Man position is the best role for Caris LeVert to capitalize on his potential in becoming the elite scorer he can be.

As of right now, the Nets have Caris coming off the bench but are not ruling out the possibility of reinserting him as a starter.  After their loss to Orlando on January 6th, Coach Kenny Atkinson reaffirmed during the postgame press conference on YES Network that he does not have a concrete decision yet on whether he intends to keep Caris’s role strictly off the bench:

“I haven’t decided; with a little more minutes, we’ll look at it and we’ll talk to the coaches and see what we can do.”

If the Nets intend to make him a starter, especially next season with Kyrie and KD, Caris LeVert’s probability of living up to his contract could become much more unlikely.

Injury-prone players will always be vulnerable when they return to the court.  However, the level of susceptibility can be lowered or increased based on how the player is managed, and that’s what it’s going to come down to for LeVert and the Nets.  The Nets obviously want Caris to be an influential player in their lineup and have demonstrated with their contract extension, that they will be patient with him.  But what continues to be a risk is the amount of caution they are choosing to implement with LeVert and the role they want him to own.  And after paying him a considerable sum last year, granting Caris LeVert big minutes and a starting position, remains to be a dicey gamble for the Brooklyn Nets.