INDIANAPOLIS — Yes, Caris LeVert’s offense has been the talk of this short Nets season. But it’s LeVert’s defense that had coach Kenny Atkinson singing his praises before Saturday night’s game against the Pacers.
After tying his career high with 27 points in a season-opening loss to the Pistons, LeVert scored 28 points, including the game-winning layup with one second left, in Friday night’s win over the Knicks. Atkinson, however, said that if LeVert is going to make a jump to the next level, he’s going to have to be a great two-way player like the Pacers’ Victor Oladipo.
“What I liked about the Knicks game is that he played both ends,” Atkinson said. “It’s like Oladipo. The reason why Oladipo is Oladipo and has made a huge jump is he plays both ends of the court. He’s obviously an excellent offensive player, but he’s fierce defensively.
“That’s what Caris has got to get. He’s been that for two games. He’s got to keep doing it.”
LeVert, the first draft pick made by this Nets regime, is by far the team’s best defensive guard. D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie are not known for their defensive prowess.
It’s clear from the way Atkinson put the ball in LeVert’s hands at the end of both the loss in Detroit and the win over the Knicks that the team has a lot of confidence in him.
“I just wanted to come through for [the coach],” LeVert said when asked how he felt at the end of the Knicks game.
He added that he feels different this season.
“Really confident,” he said. “My teammates and my coaches have a lot of confidence in me. I’ve worked on my game. I’ve watched a lot of film. So I feel really confident.
“I’m just taking my time, picking my spot, knowing I don’t have to go every single time I get it. Get the mismatch, play well off the ball. We’ve got a lot of great players on the team playing with me, so it’s easy when guys aren’t selfish and are looking for me like that.”