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Caris LeVert gets four rebounds, three steals in Nets debut

Nets guard Caris LeVert brings the ball upcourt

Nets guard Caris LeVert brings the ball upcourt against the Denver Nuggets in first half at Barclays Center on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. He had four rebounds, three steals and didn't score in his season debut. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Nets first-round draft pick Caris LeVert made his long-awaited NBA debut in a 116-111 victory over the Nuggets Wednesday night at Barclays Center. The No. 20 pick in the June draft worked tirelessly to recover from left foot surgery in March and his reward was nine minutes of playing time in which he contributed three steals and four rebounds but was scoreless while missing all three shots he took.

“It’s been so long since I’ve played an actual game,” LeVert said. “It was a great feeling.”

Starting the second quarter, the 6-7 wing man had an immediate impact on defense, making all three of his steals and grabbing three rebounds in five minutes as the Nets pushed their lead from 13 points to 20.

“I loved his speed out there,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “That’s one thing we need more of. He had a lot of pop and energy. I love how hard he plays and his athleticism.”

Defense likely will be LeVert’s strength at first. “The coaches told me to try to bring some energy on the defensive side of the ball and try to get in the passing lanes a little bit,” LeVert said. “I think we got in transition a little in the first half, and it helped us get the early lead. It’s something we’re definitely going to look forward to.”

Whitehead fits at point

Brooklyn native Isaiah Whitehead had his No. 15 jersey at Coney Island’s Lincoln High retired on Tuesday. Whitehead had a career-high 14 points to go with four steals and two assists against Denver.

“Having Jeremy [Lin] out, I feel bad for Jeremy, but what I do like is that Isaiah is getting the chance and an opportunity, and he’s not backing down from the opportunity,” Atkinson said. “He’s thrust into not an easy situation, but I like his demeanor, I like his spirit and how he’s handled it so far.”

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