LAS VEGAS — Caris LeVert may have missed a recent planned midnight workout with new Nets star D’Angelo Russell, but even though he finished last season as a starter, LeVert is eager to play with the Nets’ summer league team starting Friday night against Atlanta.
LeVert is one of five Nets veterans who will take part, including starting power forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, guards Spencer Dinwiddie and Isaiah Whitehead, who are part of the regular rotation, and fifth-year guard Archie Goodwin, who is fighting to keep his roster spot.
Coach Kenny Atkinson likes the idea of having his young core guys take part in what he described Thursday as a “dress rehearsal” for the coming season.
“It’s very important to get some momentum going into next year and also to work on some things I’ve been working on in the offseason, get it into play and get a good rhythm,” said LeVert, who sat out 2016 summer league play because he was recovering from foot surgery that sidelined him until December. “So we’re looking forward to it.”
LeVert missed the first 20 games last season and was held out of five others, but he started the final 25 of the 57 games he played. Thanks to the Brook Lopez trade that brought Russell from the Lakers, the Nets should have a dynamic perimeter attack featuring point guard Jeremy Lin, shooting guard Russell and small forward LeVert, all of whom can bring the ball upcourt and initiate the Nets’ free-flowing offense.
“I feel like I’ve always been a pretty good ballhandler,” LeVert said. “It’s kind of like second nature to me. That will just be another part of my game I try to work on and help us win with it.”
Most of his offseason work has been focused on improving his 32.1 percent three-point shooting compared to his 57.1 percent two-point shooting. LeVert said the Nets will miss Lopez, but he’s looking forward to his expanded offensive role.
Even before the Nets acquired Russell, LeVert was acquainted with him because he played against Russell while in college at Michigan and he grew up in Columbus, where Russell attended Ohio State for one year. It was amusing to LeVert when Russell called him out during his introductory news conference for missing a late-night workout.
“Me and D’Angelo are good friends,” LeVert said. “We work out sometimes together, so I thought it was funny for sure.”
Asked how the rest of the Nets feel about their new teammate, Le Vert said, “We were excited. He’s a young guy, a very talented guy, someone we all can grow with who will help us in the future. He’s very smart, he’s a great passer, great shooter, so I’m excited to play with him . . . I think D’Angelo fits what we do.”
Despite finishing with an NBA-worst 20-62 record last season, the Nets already are working out together at their practice facility in Brooklyn and have a positive approach to making a big leap forward.
“We think we can be a contender next year for sure,” LeVert said. “Last year, we played really well after the All-Star break. We’re going to try to carry on where we left off going into this year.”
Notes & quotes: Per organization policy, Atkinson did not comment on the four-year max salary offer sheet worth $106.5 million that the Nets gave to restricted free agent forward Otto Porter Jr.