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Caris LeVert has NBA’s attention

Happy Monday (a phrase that should be outlawed) from the Brooklyn Nets Morning Dish, where Caris LeVert has the NBA talking heads buzzing.

Welcome to the early-season numbers edition of the Brooklyn Nets Morning Dish, where folks around the NBA can be appropriately shocked to find Caris LeVert among the NBA’s leading scorers in the early going.

With 74 points through the Nets’ first three games, LeVert is ninth in the NBA in total points — albeit light years behind the white-hot Kemba Walker of the Charlotte Hornets, who already has 106 points in three contests.

And we’ll just brush past the whole LeVert is also tied for sixth in the NBA with 11 turnovers thing.

Coaches and players told anyone who would listen last month that LeVert was coming, that he was going to blow people away with how he’s improved. It’s easy to dismiss that as training camp bravado.

But a funny thing happened on the way to blowing the talk off. LeVert has blown people away with how he’s improved.

He followed up a 27-point outburst that matched his career-high in the opening-night loss to the Detroit Pistons with a new career-high of 28 — including the game-winning floater — against the New York Knicks.

That marked the first time in his short career that LeVert had scored at least 20 points in back-to-back games and he nearly made it a hat trick Saturday night at Indiana, finishing with 19.

Coach Kenny Atkinson raved to Newsday‘s Barbara Barker about what he liked the most about LeVert’s performance against the Knicks — that he did it on both ends, like Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo does it.

“What I liked about the Knicks game is that he played both ends. It’s like Oladipo. The reason Oladipo is Oladipo and has made a huge jump is he plays both end of the court. He’s obviously an excellent offensive player, but he’s fierce defensively.

“That’s what Caris has got to get. He’s been that for two games. He’s got to keep doing it.”

It’s hard not to like 24.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.0 steals in 31.3 minutes a game on .650/.400/.857 shooting, to be sure.

Coach offended by defensive effort

Coach Kenny Atkinson told Brian Lewis of the New York Post after the Pacers hung 132 points on the Nets in a blowout victory that, while acknowledging the team is short-handed with top-tier defenders DeMarre Carroll and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson sidelined, they still need to … you know … try and stuff.

The Pacers shot 55.4 percent overall and were 16-for-24 from deep and Brooklyn just sort of folded defensively under the onslaught.

That drew Atkinson’s ire, even as he admitted the defense isn’t going to be the same without Carroll, RHJ and newcomer Treveon Graham, who is out with a hamstring strain.

“Yes, but we pay 17 guys. You’ve got to step up. These guys are NBA players and the next guy has got to step up.”

Allen’s star burst recognized

While Caris LeVert has been the talk of the Brooklyn Nets in the early going, Jarrett Allen‘s improvement over his rookie season has also been dramatic thus far.

John Carroll Jr. of our sister site, Empire Writes Back, says Allen might not have been expected to be a star when he was taken with the 22nd overall pick in 2017, but he might just end up being the star that the Nets end up with.

Carroll writes that while D’Angelo Russell is seen as the Nets’ face of the franchise at this point, Allen would not be a complete loss in that role.

(Allen’s) look alone is capable of being marketed well. The headband, the crazy Afro, his size, all of it could become the new brand of the Nets and be unlike every other team in the NBA.

Carroll points out the defensive highlights — such as the rejection of Blake Griffin in the opener — and his increased defensive awareness as reasons why his play matters.

That and the new 3-point shot, which gives him potential as a stretch 5 who also protects the rim like nobody’s business.

Next: 25 greatest individual games in Nets history

Not a bad foundation to launch a star from, to be sure.

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