The weight of all the injuries the Nets have suffered has sent them into a tailspin with three straight losses, but the cavalry is arriving just in the nick of time. Allen Crabbe is set to return against the Nuggets Wednesday night at Barclays Center, and Caris LeVert practiced on Monday and his return appears imminent.
LeVert suffered a dislocated right ankle on Nov. 12 and will miss his 42nd game Wednesday, and Crabbe last played on Dec. 12 before missing the next 26 games with right knee soreness. Both practiced Monday with the Nets’ G League Long Island Nets, and coach Kenny Atkinson announced that Crabbe will be in the rotation against the Nuggets while LeVert potentially can return in one of the next four games before the All-Star break.
With the Nets in a scoring slump the past three games, Crabbe’s three-point shooting should provide a major boost. “Obviously, our offense is based a lot on three-point shooting,” Atkinson said. “That’s what he does, that’s why we signed him. It’s like we’re signing a free agent. I’m excited to have him back and I’m looking forward to seeing how he performs.”
Atkinson declined to project the return of LeVert, who was leading the Nets with an 18.4 scoring average when he went down, but he likely will be built up gradually.
“I think it’s going to take some time until he catches his rhythm,” Atkinson said. “The most important is that he’s right physically . . . The guy was playing like an All-Star from my perspective before he went out. Of course, that’s our goal is to get him back to that level. With Caris, I wouldn’t bet against him, watching how hard he worked to get back.”
Naturally, Crabbe and LeVert were excited to scrimmage on Monday. “Man, it feels great,” Crabbe said. “I don’t even know how to put it in words. It really has just been a long time coming . . . Feels like it’s going to be my first game of the season. I’m excited, so, I can’t wait.”
LeVert’s injury was frightening when his ankle was dislocated at a gruesome angle, but it didn’t require surgery and he was pleasantly surprised to be walking two weeks after it happened.
“Even in college when I broke my [left] foot a couple times, when I came back, I was never hesitant, and this time has been more of the same,” LeVert said. “The times I’ve been on the court doing live drills and playing, I really haven’t thought about it.
“Jumping was probably three or four weeks ago, and that wasn’t really much of a concern for me. I was never really hesitant coming back, so, that’s a blessing for sure.”
Atkinson said both players looked good during Monday’s scrimmage. “Being able to play against [LeVert] today in the five-on-five was pretty good to get some competitive feel out there,” Crabbe said. “Caris is Caris. He looked good the same way before his injury. He didn’t really miss a step. I know we both were joking about our conditioning out there today, but that comes after a couple of games. We’re excited to come back.”
Notes & quotes: Nets guard Joe Harris officially has been invited to participate in the three-point shooting contest on All-Star Weekend, as Newsday previously reported via an NBA source.