From the time the Nets signed superstar free-agents Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving more than a year ago, the question that has dogged Caris LeVert is whether he will emerge as the "third star" in Brooklyn or whether he will become the key chip in a trade for that player.
LeVert’s position with the franchise never has seemed more tenuous than now since three-time NBA scoring champion James Harden recently made it clear he would like to be traded from the Rockets to the Nets. Speaking to the media via a video conference call on Thursday, LeVert admitted it has been impossible to ignore the noise but said general manager Sean Marks has been "an open book" in terms of keeping him informed.
"Nobody is irreplaceable," LeVert said. "Guys get moved every single year. We just have to be prepared for any situation. I try not to pay attention to it, but it’s kind of hard when you turn on TV and see certain things, when you turn on your social media and see certain things.
"I think this was kind of maybe my first [trade rumor] rodeo. In the past, there was something for like Jimmy Butler or Anthony Davis or something like that. But for me, I kind of just focus on the work that I’ve put in, try to stay consistent with my routine that I do every single day and just try to block everything else out. Whatever happens, it was meant to be. So, I don’t stress myself out over it."
When the Nets took part in the NBA re-start last July in Orlando, LeVert was the Nets’ "first star" in the absence of injured Durant and Irving, as well as veterans Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan and Taurean Prince. LeVert stepped up to average 23.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 6.8 assists in 10 appearances, but his three-point shooting dipped from 36.4 percent for the season to 34.0 percent in the bubble.
"I just try to build off it," LeVert said. "I feel like every single year I’ve gotten better, and I want to continue with that trend. I think the bubble was a great step for not only myself but for all the guys who went down there. [We’re] just using that as a stepping stone to the next level. I think that’s the goal for us."
During the truncated offseason, LeVert took part in Los Angeles workouts along with Durant, Irving, other Nets teammates and top players from around the NBA. He said the Nets’ big two have encouraged him to be himself and stay aggressive while teaming with them, but he has focused on improving his-catch-and-shoot ability to fit with the ball-dominant Irving and Durant.
"Honestly, that hasn’t been something I’ve been asked to do at a large volume in the NBA," said LeVert, who has been viewed more as a slasher getting to the rim. "When I was in college, I did it a lot…I love playing off the ball. I can’t wait to do that this season. I think it’s going to be very beneficial for all of us."
Provided any megadeal for Harden remains on the back burner, where it appears to be now, LeVert can’t wait for the opportunity to team with KD and Irving.
"I think Kevin is right back to where he was, and everybody will see that," LeVert said. "I’m excited for everybody to get him back because the game wasn’t the same without him…and Ky as well. Both of them are super locked in and ready to go. I trained closely with Ky the past couple months. His body looks great, his movement looks great, he looks extremely healthy. So, I can’t wait to get out there with those guys."