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Caris LeVert closing in on return to Nets

Coach Kenny Atkinson suggested he might use Caris

Coach Kenny Atkinson suggested he might use Caris LeVert at backup point guard when he returns. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

When the Nets practiced Thursday morning before facing the Knicks later that night at Barclays Center, Caris LeVert was back on the court working with them and undergoing full contact after missing the previous six weeks following surgery to repair torn right thumb ligaments. LeVert missed his 21st straight game, but it’s clear he’s on the verge of returning.

“It feels good to get out there and practice a little bit with the guys,” he said. “They’ve been playing extremely well, so I can’t wait to get out there with them . . . I’m right there, but I’m not playing in games yet.”

Kenny Atkinson said LeVert “did a lot of contact today. He probably needs a couple more of those sessions until he and our medical team feel like he’s ready to go, but obviously getting much closer.”

LeVert still is wearing a wrap on his right hand, but he said his grip is at full strength, he’s not experiencing any discomfort and he’s gotten used to shooting with the wrap. The next big step is regaining his conditioning.

“It’s just getting my legs under me,” he said. “Once you’re out for a couple weeks or a month, your rhythm kind of goes away a little bit. So I think that’ll be the most important thing coming back.”

Before he was injured, LeVert was starting at two-guard alongside point guard Kyrie Irving, who missed his 19th straight game Thursday night because of a right shoulder impingement. LeVert hasn’t discussed his future role with Atkinson, but he said he has “great chemistry” with Spencer Dinwiddie.

Atkinson suggested he might use LeVert as the backup point guard when he returns. “I think that’s something we’re going to need and he’s really good at it, so that’s going to help us,” Atkinson said. “I expect him to integrate little by little. We have to work it out with the rotation.”

Irving report denied

Atkinson denied a recent report that Irving has been diagnosed with thoracic bursitis and will be out two or three more weeks. “It’s not true,” he said. “We’re in an on-court workout situation, but the contact just hasn’t been cleared. I think that’s the next hurdle. Hopefully sooner rather than later.”

Atkinson said there is no expectation of offseason surgery but admitted that Irving’s recovery has lasted longer than originally expected. “These shoulders can be tricky,” he said. “You need it to feel right.”

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