Pacers' Caris LeVert scores 13 in triumphant return from cancer surgery

Liz Roscher
·2-min read

Less than two months after having cancer surgery, Caris LeVert of the Indiana Pacers was back on the court Saturday night, and he even contributed to the Pacers' 122-111 win over the Phoenix Suns.

LeVert, 26, had surgery in January to remove a small cancerous mass on his left kidney, but made his miraculous return to basketball Saturday night with 13 points and six assists in 27 minutes. While LeVert admitted to ESPN that he struggled with "heavy legs," he was more focused on just being out there and playing again.

"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.

LeVert's teammates were thrilled to have him back, and head coach Nate Bjorkgren described what a spiritual lift it was for the Pacers to have LeVert out there.

"Absolutely, he energized our team, and his character level is so high," Bjorkgren said via ESPN. "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."

Trade may have saved LeVert's life

Saturday night was also LeVert's debut for the Pacers. At the start of January, LeVert was on the Brooklyn Nets, and he didn't know he had a cancerous mass on his kidney.

He wouldn't know until midway through the month when he was sent to the Pacers as part of the James Harden four-team blockbuster trade. He had an MRI as part of the required team physical, which found a mass on his left kidney that turned out to be renal cell carcinoma. If he hadn't been traded, which led to the physical, there's no telling when that mass would have been found.

“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.”

LeVert had surgery to remove the mass on Jan. 26, and the Pacers announced that he wouldn't need any additional cancer treatment.

Indiana Pacers guard Caris LeVert (22) drives past Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March. 13, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Indiana Pacers guard Caris LeVert (22) drives past Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March. 13, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

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