Getting traded from the Brooklyn Nets to the Indiana Pacers may have saved Caris LeVert’s life. He acknowledged this on Tuesday during his first media availability with the Pacers.
Last week, LeVert was traded to Indiana as part of the four-team deal that sent James Harden to Brooklyn. During LeVert’s post-trade physical, an MRI revealed a small mass on his left kidney.
Futher tests revealed that it was cancerous. LeVert underwent successful surgery on Monday to treat renal cell carcinoma of his kidney. The surgery was performed by Dr. Jason Sprunger at Community North Hospital in Indianapolis, Ind. No further treatment is needed, and he is expected to make a full recovery. He's out indefinitely as he recovers.
“I didn't have any symptoms. I was playing in games; I hadn't missed any games this season and I was pretty much 100 percent healthy,” LeVert said. “So, 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. I'm definitely humbled to know that this trade could have saved me in the long run."
When asked if he expects to play again this season, LeVert acknowledged that there’s currently no timetable for him to return.
“As far as the timeline and everything like that, we'll definitely figure that out sometime in the future. But right now, we just don't have those answers,” LeVert said. “I think, for me, the most important thing is getting my body healthy and making sure that I live a long life,” LeVert said. “Before basketball, that's the most important thing. I'm not really looking at that side of things. Obviously, I want to play as soon as possible; I'm a competitor and I love to play the game. But I think making sure I'm good health-wise is most important right now.”
Since getting this diagnosis, LeVert has received an outpouring of support. He was blown away by the response from the basketball community.
"It's definitely been trying times, for sure, for myself and for my family -- from getting traded to finding out the news about my body and what's going on,” LeVert said. “Amongst everything, I'm just very grateful for the support I've received not only from the Pacers -- the players and front office and fans and everyone associated with this program -- but from my family and friends and everyone on social media and everything like that. I'm just very grateful for the support that I've received. It's definitely been a crazy couple of days, and it's going to be a crazy recovery as well. But I think myself and the Pacers organization are really optimistic about the future."
Since arriving in Indiana and getting this diagnosis, LeVert has been extremely positive. He talked about how he’s processing the news and trying to look on the bright side.
"Honestly, I've been through a lot -- not only with basketball but with life in general,” LeVert said. “Obviously it was tough news to get, but it can always be worse. I try to look at it like that and find the positive in every situation. Being negative wasn't going to change the situation at all, so I just tried to stay positive and get all of the facts and figure out what to do next. I've been through a lot, and this is just another step in my journey."
LeVert said that watching his mother, Kim, maintain a positive attitude while battling multiple sclerosis has had a big impact on him.
"If you guys knew my mom, you would never know that she has MS or anything wrong with her," LeVert said with a smile. "She's a one-of-a-kind, very special lady; anyone who knows her or who has even had one conversation with her will tell you that. I think I get it a lot from her, to be honest with you. I was raised the right way, by her and by my father as well before he passed away... I try to take the positive out of every situation. That's just how I'm wired. I have a lot of faith in God and I know that everything isn’t perfect, but life is about how you react to certain things. Things happen to everybody, but how you respond to it is what shapes you as a person. I just try to respond to things in the right way.”
This season, LeVert is averaging 18.5 points, 6.0 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 1.8 threes and 1.1 steals (while shooting 43.5 percent from the field and 34.9 percent from three-point range). When he eventually returns, he’s expected to be a franchise cornerstone for the Pacers.