Caris LeVert returns to team facility, wears practice jersey while sidelined
He had surgery on Jan. 25 and is once again attending team meetings and practice.
As the Pacers practiced Saturday afternoon at the St. Vincent Center, their newest teammate was there watching. Even though he’s unable to participate, there he was wearing his practice jersey on top of a gray hoodie and with a ball in his hands.
Always a basketball in his hands. In his short time with the team, the only time he’s been seen without a ball is while seated on the bench during games.
Caris LeVert, 26, returned to the team facility this week for the first time after having surgery to treat kidney cancer less than two weeks ago (Jan. 25). A small mass was discovered on his left kidney during a mandatory physical when he was acquired in a trade.
“He’s great,” head coach Nate Bjorkgren said. “He’s been here in the gym … the last three or four days. Was at practice today observing. He’s able to have the basketball in his hands a little bit. He’s obviously in all of our film sessions and our team meetings. He’s getting there, he’s walking around and that’s a good start.”
But, he remains out indefinitely. Getting out and walking is all he’s supposed to do for the first two weeks. Then, he can slowly increase his activity level and could be back on the practice court for individual work within a couple weeks.
However, his case is different than the average person because on the court, the game is played at an incredible speed with force and unpredictably. Just imagine him taking an arm bar to his lower back. It wouldn’t be comfortable.
“At a month, a patient isn’t at risk of injuring himself but he still may be a little too sore to be working at his potential,” LeVert’s surgeon, Dr. Jason Sprunger, told Fieldhouse Files.
I asked Bjorkgren on Monday when LeVert and T.J. Warren, who had left foot surgery last month, would rejoin the team and he wasn’t sure on the specific dates. He has enough to worry about with four games in six days this week.
It turns out that it was just a few days later for LeVert. Warren still remains away.
More than just having potentially life-saving surgery, Indy is new to LeVert. Sure, he’s played here as a member of the Nets and in the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament while an undergrad at the University of Michigan, but he was uprooted in the middle of the season. In the middle of a pandemic. Quickly, he had to adapt to his new situation, find a place to live and get to know the team.
“I think it’s been great having him around,” said Myles Turner, the longest-tenured Pacer. “It can be pretty boring just being at the house by yourself, especially depressing under the circumstance he’s been going through. He doesn’t let any of that show. Once he’s here, he’s got a smile on his face. I feel like he loves being around us. He barely knows us, but he has a good spirit to him.
“We’re really looking forward to having him back, but more than anything, we’re really happy that he had a successful surgery and he got his stuff off the court together because that was something that could potentially be very dangerous.”
The Pacers are 5-7 since Jan. 13, when an agreement was reached on a four-team trade.
Practice on Saturday was spent discussing their one-point loss to the Pelicans, which wasn’t even close until a late run by the second unit, and preparing to host the Jazz Sunday afternoon.
“It’s been great to just see his face, just to have him here and to see that he’s healthy,” Malcolm Brogdon said of soon-to-be backcourt partner. “Because that stuff off the court is so much bigger than basketball. We’ve enjoyed having him here. He’s on the sideline, he’s observing, he’s quiet, but I know he’s thinking, he’s picking everything up and he’s learning.
“We’ve had a few conversations, but I think I speak for the whole organization — we’re excited to get him on the court.”