Nets guard Caris LeVert drives the ball against 76ers guard...

Nets guard Caris LeVert drives the ball against 76ers guard Landry Shamet on Nov. 4. Credit: AP/Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Many NBA analysts projected versatile Caris LeVert as a potential "third star" in the Nets’ lineup alongside superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. LeVert was expected to start the preseason opener against the Wizards Sunday night at Barclays Center, but he was forced to sit out with a bruised patella tendon.

Before the game, new coach Steve Nash revealed the possibility of a surprising new role for LeVert when he is healthy. Rather than start in the backcourt with point guard Irving, LeVert might find himself in the sixth man role.

That was expected to be Spencer Dinwiddie’s job, but he started next to Irving against the Wizards and might stay put after averaging 20.6 points and 6.8 assists, both career-highs, last season.

"Caris is a starter," Nash said. "Will he start for us? I’m not sure yet. He’s so good with the ball in his hands. There’s a case to be made that he plays that [Manu] Ginobili role, where he’s clearly a starter."

Nash was referring to the great Spurs sixth man who recently retired. Certainly, Ginobili was a key part of several NBA title teams.

"Manu played in All-Star Games, started on the bench, ran the second unit and closed games. We’ll see how it goes. It’s a great luxury to have.

"There is a thought that he could have more reps with the ball in his hands if he captains the second unit for two stretches in a game and then plays with the starters at moments or to close. All that stuff is to be figured out."

Nash has two preseason games to figure it out, including a contest Friday in Boston. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nash said, "We decided to err on the side of caution. It was really down to what a different landscape it is this year . . . Just trying to keep it as simple as possible and as clean as possible going into the season."

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