Ann Arbor — Caris LeVert was finally healthy and getting his chance to shine.
After overcoming numerous obstacles throughout his playing career, the former Michigan standout emerged as one of the NBA’s young breakout stars with the Brooklyn Nets this season.
Then with 3.7 seconds left in the first half of Monday night’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, disaster struck when LeVert suffered a gruesome right leg injury.
LeVert came down hard and his leg bent awkwardly after colliding with Jeff Teague on an attempted chase-down block. LeVert spent several minutes on the court in apparent pain before he was taken off on stretcher and transported to a local hospital by ambulance.
But the initial fear that LeVert suffered a season-ending injury was alleviated Tuesday when the Nets announced he was diagnosed with a subtalar dislocation of the right foot.
“Fortunately, tests performed this morning revealed that there are no fractures and only moderate ligament damage,” team orthopedist Dr. Martin O’Malley said in a statement. “While the optics of this injury may have appeared to be more severe, surgery will not be required. Caris will begin a period of rehabilitation with the Nets’ performance staff, following which he is expected to return to full strength and resume all basketball activities without any limitations this season.”
Michigan coach John Beilein said he spoke with LeVert and his agent, Joe Branch, on Tuesday and was among the many relieved to hear the news was much better than expected.
"It looks like it's going to have a good ending,” said Beilein, who added he had no interest watching any footage of the injury.
Several former Michigan teammates, including Derrick Walton Jr., Andrew Dakich, Spike Albrecht, Tim Hardaway Jr., Zak Irvin, Moritz Wagner and D.J. Wilson, took to Twitter and Instagram on Monday night to offer their condolences and words of support.
Unfortunately for LeVert, it's just the latest health hurdle he'll have to clear. He fought through foot ailments and had his junior and senior seasons at Michigan end prematurely due to injuries.
Still, LeVert, 24, persevered to become a first-round pick. And after predominately playing a backup role his first two seasons in Brooklyn, he was blossoming into a cornerstone of the Nets’ rebuild, averaging 18.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists through 14 games.
That's what made Monday's malady difficult to digest and Tuesday's update all the more welcome.
“Caris and I have been through a lot from his recruitment all the way to two very promising years that were just cut short and it was like, 'Why does this happen?'” Beilein said. “Then I got the call this morning that there's no fracture. As a result, if there's no fractures then there's a chance he can be back this year.
“He is a bit of a Gumby, bendable guy. I'm just so happy because apparently it was so ugly to watch, so that's why I didn't watch it. Talking with him on the phone today I could tell he was so relieved that this is not one of those other season-ending injuries that he's seen twice.”
Michigan sophomore guard Eli Brooks has had Wednesday’s matchup against Villanova circled on his calendar for quite some time. And not just because it’s a shot to avenge last season’s title-game loss, but because it’ll also mark a homecoming of sorts.
Brooks’ hometown of Spring Grove, Pa., is roughly an hour and a half away from Villanova’s campus, and he’s expecting to have a hearty cheering section in the stands.
Brooks said last week he knows of at least eight people who already have bought tickets, and teammates Jordan Poole and Jon Teske have offered up their allotment of four tickets for road games, giving him the possibility of 20 total supporters.
Brooks noted even with his teammates' generosity, some people are going to be left out because Finneran Pavilion is a smaller venue (capacity of 6,500) and ticket prices tend to get quite expensive.
Still, that hasn't dampened his excitement to go back to Pennsylvania and take on Villanova, who he spurned to attend Michigan.
“It's something special to have your family and friends be there and watch you play,” Teske said. “I think it's something you'll always remember.”