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The challenge Caris LeVert faces with Nets stars on verge of return


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The challenge Caris LeVert faces with Nets stars on verge of return 1

With Kevin Durant (probable) and Kyrie Irving (questionable) on the verge of returning Sunday against Oklahoma City, Steve Nash must figure out what to do with Caris LeVert. He’s red-hot as a starter and admitted it’s easier to find his rhythm when he’s in the lineup right from the tip.

“Yeah, the roles are definitely different when those guys are playing,” said LeVert, who acknowledged its easier to get into sync as a starter.

“Yeah, I think so. But for me, just working off the ball is definitely something I’ve worked on a lot this offseason, playing off of players, playing off the ball, playing that 2-man spot, that 3-man spot. That’s where I’ve really improved, and as the season progresses, I’ll be able to show that.”

LeVert showed plenty in Friday’s loss in Memphis — pouring in 43 points, six assists and five rebounds. He shot 15-of-23 and a career-best 7-of-9 from deep.

It capped a stellar week in the absence of Durant and Irving during which LeVert looked particularly aggressive. In Durant’s three-game absence, LeVert has averaged 29.7 points and seven assists, shooting 50 percent and 47.4 percent from deep.

“Caris is usually really aggressive, he was just 7-of-9 from 3, so it makes it all look totally different,” Nash said. “But I’ve never really had a problem with his aggressiveness. It just paints a picture of when the ball goes in the basket it looks a lot different. But he’s been playing well. He had a few good games in a row now, and he’s getting better all the time, so really proud of the way he’s playing.”

He’s gotten better as he got more responsibility. LeVert struggled to find his rhythm as the sixth man leading the second unit — mustering just 12.6 points and 4.7 assists, shooting 38.5 percent overall and 31 percent from deep. But as a starter, he’s looked like an All-Star, averaging 31 points and nine assists while hitting 46.8 from the field and 39.1 percent on 3s. The Nets are a plus-12.7 with LeVert on the floor as a starter.

But even after Spencer Dinwiddie went down with a torn ACL, Nash opted to first try Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot at off-guard. It wasn’t until the Nets lost both Irving and even Tyler Johnson that he gave in and put LeVert in the lineup.

There have been constant questions about how LeVert — an inefficient high-usage scorer — fits with the Nets’ two stars.

“I don’t think he really has to really ‘fit in.’ He is who he is, and he’s going to bring a lot to the table,” Jeff Green said. “And I think Ky and Kev know that. It’s only going to help them along the way, but it’s also going to help CL [LeVert]. I believe he’s already made a name for himself in this league. Sky’s the limit still for him.

“His growth is still going to get bigger. He’s going to keep working. He’s a kid who’s in the gym every day working on his craft, and he’s going to continue to get better.”

After having represented himself, Dinwiddie has taken on LA-based agent Jason Glushon, according to Forbes. Dinwiddie just had ACL surgery and has a $12.3 million player option for next season.

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