Caris LeVert enters health & safety protocol, out for play-in game against Charlotte
The Pacers were nearly perfect in their handling of the protocols this season. This one is costly.
Pacers guard Caris LeVert has entered the NBA’s health & safety protocol and is unavailable for Tuesday’s play-in game against the Charlotte Hornets at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, a league source confirmed to Fieldhouse Files.
The news was first reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic. Pacers head coach Nate Bjorkgren was told Tuesday morning that LeVert wasn’t available. No coaches, trainers or staff members were also impacted.
“I talked to him on the phone earlier today,” Bjorkgren said. “He’s hurt, he’s crushed. He wants to be out there, especially with all that he’s gone through this year.”
Players are tested twice a day and up to three times on game day. Once entering the protocol, a player must isolate for 10 days and cannot return to the court for two days after that. If the Pacers win and advance, this not only impacts LeVert on Tuesday — but for the next two weeks.
Some members of the team have been vaccinated, but it’s unclear how many.
The Pacers have been nearly perfect in their handling of protocols. Reserve forward JaKarr Sampson is the only known Pacer to miss a game because of it. He was not with the team and sat out of their game in Boston on Feb. 26, but he rejoined them the next day in New York.
LeVert averaged 24.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game over the last 10 games. He’s taken over the primary ball-handling responsibilities with several other guards missing time, like Malcolm Brogdon.
This is a devastating blow and for the Pacers this season, it feels like if they didn’t have bad luck, they wouldn’t have any luck at all. Players have missed more than 250 games combined due to injuries — including starter T.J. Warren, the leading scorer last season, suffering a season-ending injury after just four games.
The Pacers are already banged up, and have seven other players on the injury report. Domantas Sabonis (left quad bruise) is among the bunch, but he is expected to play. Brogdon, LeVert and Sabonis are the team’s top scorers.
Brogdon (sore right hamstring), Aaron Holiday (great right toe sprain), Edmond Sumner (left knee contusion) are questionable.
“They all three got pretty good workouts in today,” Bjorkgren said after Monday’s practice. “Malcolm was on the floor again going through his 1-on-1 shooting workouts. … He’s really fighting hard to get back on the court.”
Brogdon hasn’t played at all this month, missing the last 10 games. He tested the hamstring before the regular-season finale, but didn’t quite feel ready. He is a true game-time decision on Tuesday.
Already ruled out for the game: Jeremy Lamb (sore left knee), Myles Turner (right toe injury), and Warren (left foot surgery rehab).
The Pacers were favored by 3.5 points. After the news, it dropped to +1.5.
It’s a must-win game for both teams or their season is over. The winner advances to play the loser of Wizards-Celtics on Thursday for the right to be the 8-seed and face the top-seeded 76ers.
Listen to my preview of the matchup with Rod Boone, who covers the Hornets for SI, wherever you listen to podcasts.
Should the Pacers win twice and earn the 8th seed, will they still be in the lottery?