Caris LeVert 'getting closer' to return; Kyrie Irving still not practicing

NEW YORK -- After missing more than six weeks with a thumb injury, Brooklyn Nets guard/forward Caris LeVert is nearing his return to the court.

LeVert underwent surgery on the ligaments in his right thumb on Nov. 14. The Nets have gone 12-9 in his absence, including Thursday night's 94-82 loss to the New York Knicks.

"They've been playing extremely well, so I can't wait to get out there with them," LeVert said earlier Thursday.

LeVert began doing full contact work with Brooklyn's coaches on Monday. In his first comments to reporters since immediately after his surgery, LeVert said he was finally able to play five on five against his teammates Tuesday and then again Thursday.

Neither LeVert nor head coach Kenny Atkinson would give an exact date for his return. Atkinson stopped short of saying LeVert would play at some point during the Nets' upcoming road trip against the Rockets, Timberwolves and Mavericks, saying only that he is "getting closer" and needs a "couple more" contact sessions before he is cleared to play in a game.

Said LeVert: "I feel better each and every day. I'm right there."

LeVert, 25, said the most challenging part has been "getting my rhythm, getting my legs back." He is still wearing protective tape on his right thumb and said he anticipates using bandages in games when he comes back.

LeVert started all nine games he played in this season. He is averaging 16.8 points, five rebounds and four assists per game.

Meanwhile, the Nets are still without their starting point guard, Kyrie Irving. Irving was diagnosed with a right shoulder impingement after the Nets' Nov. 12 game against the Utah Jazz. He suffered the injury two days earlier when Brooklyn played the Nuggets in Denver.

Atkinson said Friday that Irving will not travel on the Nets upcoming three-game road trip. He said before Thursday's game that Irving had yet to be cleared for contact.

On Dec. 8, Atkinson said he anticipated Irving would be "integrated in the next week or two into team practices." Two and a half weeks later, that has yet to happen.

Atkinson dismissed the idea that Irving could need surgery.

"I don't think we are there yet," Atkinson said. "We're still in the rehab process."