Indiana Pacers forward Caris LeVert has returned to the NBA court for the first time since a routine medical as part of his trade away from Brooklyn revealed a cancerous mass on his kidney.
The alarming discovery was made by the Pacers, who sent LeVert for an MRI prior to trading for him as part of the mammoth deal earlier in the season which saw former MVP James Harden move from the Houston Rockets to Brooklyn.
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The Nets drafted LeVert with the 20th pick in the 2016 draft, with the 26-year-old enjoying a breakout campaign last season before impressing for the Nets early this season, before he was traded to the Pacers.
He had 13 points and six assists in 27 minutes of playing time in Indiana'a 122-111 victory over the Phoenix Suns, admitting he had 'heavy legs' but reiterating how thankful he was to be back playing just two months after the concerning diagnosis.
"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 via ESPN.
Pacers head coach Nate Bjorkgren said LeVert's long-awaited debut for the team had helped re-energise the squad, a boost the 9th-placed team (17-19) definitely needed.
"Absolutely, he energized our team, and his character level is so high," 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."
Caris LeVert says Indiana Pacers trade 'possibly saved me'
LeVert was part of the four-team trade that eventually saw former Houston Rocket James Harden traded to the Brooklyn Nets.
As part of the trade LeVert was initially traded to Houston, before being sent to the Pacers in exchange for Victor Oladipo and a second round pick.
LeVert underwent an MRI as part of a routine medical, but the scan revealed a lump on his kidney which turned out to be renal cell carcinoma.
If the trade didn't go down, there is no way of telling when it would have been discovered - leaving LeVert with a new perspective after having surgery to remove the mass on January 26.
“I didn’t have any symptoms. I was playing in games. I hadn’t missed any games this season yet. I was feeling 100 percent healthy,” LeVert said via ESPN.
“So, in a way, this trade definitely 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 this trade could’ve possibly saved me in the long run.”
Fortunately, the Pacers star will not require further surgery or treatment.
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