Inside Caris LeVert's season debut and an experience that guided his preparation
He scored 15 points in 16 first-half minutes. Justin Holiday: "Caris showed exactly what he does and didn’t miss a beat."
Caris LeVert shot around for a few minutes after the team completed an afternoon walkthrough more than two hours prior to tip-off. Because they had a late night, playing in Brooklyn and then returning home with another game less than 24 hours later, this was their limited time together before everyone began their pre-game routines.
LeVert was there at the walkthrough, going over offensive sets with his teammates and standing next to a coach whenever he was not participating to make sure he was up to speed.
Ever been to a new city and think you know it, only to get behind the wheel and realize you are lost? You don’t know it until you experience it, and you experience it by doing.
LeVert had started last season with the Nets, was traded to the Pacers, then had surgery to removed a mass on his left kidney and after a disappointing season without a playoff appearance, now it’s Rick Carlisle back leading the team.
The Ohio native averaged career highs last season, 20.7 points and 4.6 rebounds while shooting 44.3 percent from the floor in 35 games. However, his start to the season was derailed when he diagnosed with a stress fracture in his back on media day, the day before the start of camp. So no training camp for LeVert, no preseason and he was in street clothes for the first seven games of the season.
On Saturday afternoon, before arena workers were allowed inside the bowl area to assume their positions, music and promotions were blasted through the overhead speakers and 90 minutes before fans were allowed inside Gainbridge Fieldhouse, LeVert had one the last quiet moment for himself.
He then returned to the court about 50 minutes before the start of the game. He was the last Pacer to leave, working for almost 20 minutes on 3-point shots, shooting with a hand in his face and off screens. He was working out with player development assistant coach Tyler Marsh, who was on staff last season.
Before heading back to the locker room with 30:19 on the clock to make the team’s pre-game meeting, LeVert finished up the same way they do at practice, going around the world. It’s a common basketball drill where a player shoots five times from five spots around the arc.
He slapped hands with Marsh, a couple basketball interns and ball kids, and then jogged back to the locker room in the north east corner of the arena.
LeVert was not only back and putting on his No. 22 jersey for the first time since media day, but he was also reassuming his role in the starting lineup. He’s never come off the bench since being acquired by the Pacers.
With several players sidelined and a challenging schedule for the next month, they need any win they can get — especially against the Toronto Raptors, an Eastern Conference foe that has been a difficult matchup for years. They had just dominated the Pacers in Toronto three days earlier, 118-100.