LeVert’s impending Pacers debut represents a remarkable turn of events for the 26-year-old, who was traded from Brooklyn to Indiana in mid-January in the four-team trade that sent James Harden to the Nets. At the time of the deal, a small mass was discovered on LeVert’s left kidney as part of a routine physical. He underwent surgery 10 days later to treat renal cell carcinoma, a type of kidney cancer.
While there was plenty of optimism at the time of the procedure that LeVert would make a full recovery, there was some uncertainty about whether or not he’d be able to return to the court before the end of the 2020/21 season. Now, he’s set to play for Indiana much earlier than anticipated, only about a month-and-a-half after his surgery.
As J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star writes, Pacers head coach Nate Bjorkgren had told reporters on Thursday that LeVert wouldn’t be out much longer and that there was a chance he’d play on the team’s three-game road trip, which begins on Friday in Los Angeles. Having seen him play in practice, LeVert’s new teammates are excited about the effect he’ll have on the struggling club, which has lost 12 of its lost 17 games.
“He looked great. He looked confident,” Domantas Sabonis said, per Michael. “Really good in the pick-and-roll, being aggressive going downhill, giving us more options. He’s going to attract a lot of defense to him, creating open shots for everybody. That’s what we’ve been missing.”
The Pacers are also hoping to get injured forward T.J. Warren back at some point this season, but he’s expected to be sidelined for a while yet as he recovers from foot surgery.