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Nets' Caris LeVert getting closer to return

Nets guard Caris LeVert dunks against the Pistons

Nets guard Caris LeVert dunks against the Pistons during the first half of an NBA game on Nov. 2 in Detroit. Credit: AP/Duane Burleson

MINNEAPOLIS – The countdown to Caris LeVert’s comeback is gaining momentum. He missed his 23rd straight game when the Nets faced the Timberwolves Monday night at Target Center because of surgery to repair torn right thumb ligaments. But there is a possibility LeVert might enjoy a happy day after the New Year’s Day game on Thursday night in Dallas, where the Nets’ three-game trip ends.

Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said LeVert went through another three-on-three workout with members of the coaching and training staff Monday morning. “Looked really good, is feeling really good,” Atkinson said. “We’re getting close.”

Following the T-Wolves game, the Nets were scheduled to fly immediately to Dallas, arriving in the wee hours on Tuesday, when they have a scheduled day off. They have a regular practice on Wednesday before facing the Mavericks the following night.

Asked if Wednesday’s practice might be the final tuneup for LeVert, Atkinson said, “We’ll see. That’s a big one. That’ll be a bigger five-on-five group. So, we’re just getting real close. We want to make sure we check all the boxes, and there are a lot of boxes to be checked. Personally, I don’t want to rush into anything. I know we need him back, but I want this to be a health long-term thing for the rest of the year.”

Atkinson said LeVert previously has taken part in five-on-five practices with the Nets, but he needs enough reps so it is clear he not only has recovered from surgery but is approaching game condition. He compared it to the process Wilson Chandler went through to return from his 25-game suspension for use of a banned substance.

“I personally don’t feel comfortable just rolling a guy out there without the proper buildup and game simulations,” Atkinson said. “I think it’s important that, when guys step in the lineup, they’re ready to go.”

Notes & quotes: Chandler said the quirky schedule that has the Nets going from Houston to Minneapolis and back down to Dallas is “crazy, but it’s the NBA. I’ve seen similar or worse. We’ve got a couple days to get rest [in Dallas], get a practice day and get that rhythm back.”

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