Pacers guard Caris LeVert felt grateful to be playing in an NBA game two months after doctors found a small mass on his left kidney, writes Eric Woodyard of ESPN. The discovery was made during a physical required to complete the four-team trade that send him from Brooklyn to Indiana in January. LeVert underwent surgery 10 days later for renal cell carcinoma, a form of kidney cancer.
He made his debut with the Pacers on Saturday night, playing 27 minutes and contributing 13 points and seven rebounds in a win at Phoenix. LeVert was in the starting lineup, even though Saturday marked just his second time playing five-on-five since the operation. He admitted to having “heavy legs” as he continues to work his way back into basketball shape, but was happy with his performance.
“A month-and-a-half ago, two months ago, I didn’t even know if I knew I was even gonna be out here, especially this soon, just with everything that happened, so it’s definitely a level of gratefulness and just happy to be on the court,” LeVert said.
The Pacers had the option to void the trade after LeVert’s condition was discovered, but they chose to keep him as a show of support and an expression of confidence that he would be able to return before the season ended. The organization has worked to make sure LeVert felt comfortable during his recovery, and he received a huge ovation from his teammates last night as he walked into the locker room after the game.
“Absolutely, he energized our team, and his character level is so high,” coach Nate Bjorkgren said. “He’s such a good person. He’s been a great teammate throughout this entire time that he’s been out, so our guys were very happy to have him back out there on the court.”