His eyes downcast and his lips downturned, Caris LeVert could not hide his disappointment as he sat glued to the bench for the entire overtime period of the Nets’ 111-103 loss to Oklahoma City Tuesday night.
LeVert, who had scored 16 of his 20 points in the third and fourth quarters, wanted to be out there with his teammates instead of watching the Nets drop their seventh game in a row. Yet, with some reflection, he said he understood why the team is cautious when it comes to limiting his minutes as he comes back from surgery on his right thumb.
“It’s frustrating if you feel good not to be out there,” LeVert said after the game. “Yeah, I’m a competitor. I want to play. But I trust the coaches and I trust the staff. There’s always another game.”
LeVert missed 24 sgames before returning to play Saturday in a loss to the Raptors. With Kyrie Irving out for the unforeseeable future, the Nets sure could use an offensive infusion from LeVert, who is the team’s No. 3 scorer behind Irving and Spencer Dinwiddie.
The Nets have not exactly spelled out what LeVert’s minutes restriction entails. After playing Saturday, LeVert sat out Monday’s game at Orlando and then scored 20 points in 22 minutes against OKC.
The team’s offense clearly sputtered with LeVert on the bench in overtime as the Thunder’s offense was able to collapse on Dinwiddie. Yet, even though the Nets made just one field goal in overtime, coach Kenny Atkinson said he never considered keeping LeVert in the game for the overtime period.
“It’s easy to say, ‘Hey, let’s win this game,’ ” Atkinson said. “But I think you would regret it if something ever happened, so I think it’s a plan that we stick with, we make it beforehand, and we stick with it.”
The good news – if a team on a seven-game losing streak can have good news – is that LeVert is looking as though he can have a big second half of the season. And his teammates couldn’t be happier
“Everybody knows that Caris is one of the best players on this team,” Joe Harris said. “He’s one of the better young players in this league, so anytime you can have somebody like that play, he’s obviously somebody that’s going to help out a lot.”