INDIANAPOLIS — In the Nets’ early stage of development, injuries aren’t losses but are “opportunities” for young players to grow. So, a minor right hip injury that kept Rondae Hollis-Jefferson home in Brooklyn created a larger role for No. 1 draft pick Caris LeVert to help the Nets defend Pacers star Paul George on Thursday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Coach Kenny Atkinson planned to use a combination of starter Bojan Bogdanovic with veteran Joe Harris and LeVert coming off the bench to help.
Levert made 2 of 3 three-point attempts and had six points in 21 minutes in the Nets’ 121-109 loss.
“If you ask me the things that excite me the most about Caris, you need wing-stoppers in this league,” Atkinson said. “He’s shown some evidence he can do it. There’s also been moments where [Utah’s] Gordon Hayward, he goes under [the screen] twice on him [Tuesday night]. He’ll get better at that as he gets more accustomed to personnel.”
LeVert missed the Nets’ previous two games against Indiana while rehabbing from foot surgery, so Thursday night was his first chance to play against former Michigan teammate Glenn Robinson III. “We keep in touch all the time,” LeVert said. “We’re big fans of each other’s game. He just tells me to go out there, be confident, play my game and it will come to me. It’s a long process. This is his third or fourth year, and he’s finally getting it now.”
The Indiana game was the first of three tipping off in a span of 89 hours for the Nets, who face Cleveland at home Friday night and are home for a noon start Sunday against Charlotte. Earlier this season, they rested center Brook Lopez and others for a game in those scenarios.
But Atkinson said, “Right now, Brook’s in a good place. We are aware of the schedule, but I think we need our group, our stability right now . . . For the most part, guys are feeling pretty healthy. I think we’re in a good place right now.”