LeVert, Pacers await test results before plotting next move

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Brooklyn Nets guard Caris LeVert (22) goes for a layup as Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) and guard Jamal Murray (27) defend during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

INDIANAPOLIS – Caris LeVert arrived in Indianapolis last week feeling perfectly fine.

He was eager to meet his new teammates, join the starting lineup and make his Pacers debut. Then came the shocking news from Indiana's team doctors: They found a small mass on LeVert's left kidney.

Suddenly everything went on hold and now, as LeVert awaits test results to find out if the growth is cancerous, the 6-foot-6 guard realizes just how fortunate he was to be included in last week's blockbuster trade.

“I hadn't missed any games this season yet. I was 100% healthy," he said during a video call Tuesday. “In a way this trade showed and revealed what was going on in my body. So I’m definitely looking at it from that side and definitely humbled to know that that this trade could have saved me in the long run."

If he hadn't gone from Brooklyn to Houston in the James Harden deal, then from the Rockets to Indiana in exchange for Victor Oladipo last Wednesday, it's unclear when — or if — the mass would have been detected.

LeVert spent his first 4 1/2 seasons with the Nets after the Pacers selected him in the first round of the 2016 NBA draft. After a solid rookie season, his scoring average increased each of the next three seasons and this season started as his best yet. He was averaging 18.5 points, a career high 6.0 assists and a career best 4.3 rebounds prior to the trade.

Though teams conduct physicals at the start of each season, LeVert wasn't sure if the Nets ever scanned his lower back. That changed when he joined the Pacers, who came up with a diagnosis LeVert never expected.

“A lot of things creeped through my mind," he said. “I really didn’t know what was going on. I didn't know the next steps, I didn’t know if the trade was going to go through. Obviously, it did and I think that’s a testament to this organization and not only how good of people they are but how much they believe in me. That was huge for me. I just can't wait to get healthy and get back on the court."