In the wake of what appeared to be a devastating injury suffered by Caris LeVert on Monday night in Minnesota, the entire NBA community came together in an outpouring of prayers, love and respect for the budding Nets star.
But as it turns out, all may not be lost for LeVert this season. The Nets issued an update Tuesday afternoon that indicated LeVert suffered no break or fracture when he injured his lower right leg in a fall at Target Center. He is expected to return at full strength later this season. LeVert was diagnosed with a subtalar dislocation of the right foot. No surgery will be required.
“Fortunately, tests performed this morning revealed that there are no fractures and only moderate ligament damage,” Nets team orthopedist Dr. Martin O’Malley said in a statement.
“While the optics of this injury may have appeared to be more severe, surgery will not be required. Caris will begin a period of rehabilitation with the Nets’ performance staff, following which he is expected to return to full strength and resume all basketball activities without any limitations this season.”
O’Malley is the same surgeon who performed the last of LeVert’s three foot surgeries when he was at Michigan.
Video of the gruesome injury LeVert suffered with 3.7 seconds left in the first half had a profound impact on all the players on the court and resonated far beyond Target Center. LeVert contested a shot by Timberwolves rookie Josh Okogie, and the two crashed to the floor, where LeVert’s right foot planted and his lower right leg collapsed in grotesque fashion above the ankle.
Some of LeVert’s teammates were in tears on the court and in the locker room at halftime, and the atmosphere in the postgame locker room was funereal. As veteran Jared Dudley said, “Devastating. Devastating to the team. He’s such a good kid. Our best player, our go-to scorer. As athletes we’re all human like everybody else. Everybody was down.”
LeVert is 14 games into what is being viewed as a breakout season in which he is averaging 18.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game and excelling on defense as well.
As the first draft pick by general manager Sean Marks in 2016, LeVert is viewed as the cornerstone of the franchise rebuilding project. Coach Kenny Atkinson called him “the heart and soul of our program.”
When he went down, even the Timberwolves obviously were shaken as they headed to their bench while medical personnel tended to LeVert.
“It’s really humbling,” T-Wolves forward Anthony Tolliver said. “We just know that sick feeling. We definitely wanted to do what we could, and I got the guys together and we prayed for him.”
A check of social media showed the congregation praying for LeVert extended across the breadth of the NBA and included stars such as LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Love, C.J. McCollum, Eric Gordon, Kyle Kuzma and even retired Hall of Famer Bill Russell. Members of the crosstown rival Knicks sent their best wishes to LeVert, including Enes Kanter, Ron Baker and Kristaps Porzingis, who is recovering from knee surgery himself.
LeVert posted his own message on Twitter on Tuesday night, thanking people for their prayers and support. “I just want to thank God above all things b/c despite how bad the injury looked, it could’ve been a lot worse,” he wrote.
LeVert also heard from former Nets teammates Quincy Acy, who said, “Come back stronger than ever, my brother,” and Jeremy Lin. If anyone could feel LeVert’s plight, it was Lin, who ruptured a patella tendon in the season opener a year ago, spent a year in rehab and then was traded to Atlanta last summer after two injury-plagued seasons with the Nets.
Lin tweeted: “Noooo!! Not @CarisLeVert . . . one of the hardest workers I know. Ughhh.”
That visceral sound of a gut punch at the end of Lin’s tweet pretty much summed up feelings around the NBA.
Porzingis tweeted: “This guy has been hooping!! It’s so tough to see that happen . . . Prayers up for @CarisLeVert. Speedy recovery bro!!”
The Nets’ Dudley, who is in his 11th NBA season, expressed hope for LeVert’s future. “The good thing about this is you see players recover from this and come back and have good careers,” Dudley said, “and I know he will.”