Indiana Pacers shooting guard Caris LeVert was reportedly diagnosed with a stress fracture in his back that could cause him to miss the start of the 2021-22 NBA season.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Tuesday the Pacers, who open the regular season Oct. 20 with a road game against the Charlotte Hornets, have "optimism that it could only be a minor setback" that doesn't force LeVert to miss too much time.
Indiana acquired the 27-year-old University of Michigan product in January as part of a four-team trade headlined by James Harden heading to the Brooklyn Nets.
An MRI as part of the medical review to complete the trade revealed a small mass on his left kidney. He underwent surgery to treat the renal cell carcinoma.
LeVert returned to action in mid-March and played well for the Pacers down the stretch. He averaged 20.7 points, 4.9 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.5 steals across 35 appearances. He ranked 21st among shooting guards in ESPN's real-plus minus for the 2020-21 season.
The 6'6'', 205-pound Ohio native said Monday he worked throughout the summer to get himself back to peak physical condition after the surgery hindered his endurance last season.
"I tried to get my conditioning back," LeVert told reporters. "With the surgery that I had last year, it was tough for me late in games to feel like myself, especially in the fourth quarter."
Jeremy Lamb should enter the starting lineup alongside Malcolm Brogdon for the time being. It could also lead to more minutes for T.J. McConnell and Chris Duarte as part of the backcourt rotation.
The Pacers will also be without starting small forward T.J. Warren because of a stress fracture in his left foot. Head coach Rick Carlisle, starting his second stint with the organization, said they're hopeful he'll be out for "weeks and not months."
In turn, Indiana, which finished 34-38 last season, may have to tread water in the standings for the initial stages of the regular season until it can get back to full strength.