Nets’ DeAndre Jordan making own mark with out Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — If any Net were going to take a “wait ’til next year” working vacation, it could have been DeAndre Jordan. He signed on to play with pals Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but Durant never suited up and Irving now is out for the year, leaving Jordan the last man standing.

Rather than go on cruise control, however, Jordan has been the veteran leader, driving the Nets to not fall into the trap of seeing this injury-riddled campaign as a lost gap year.

“DeAndre’s been great. DeAndre was expected to play with KD and Ky’ and he’s playing with a different team,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “I’ve been so pleased with his spirit and his attitude and how hard he’s playing and helping our defense, his rebounding.”

After Jordan looked uninspired for last season’s tanking Knicks, his engagement level was a concern. Atkinson admitted as much this summer, but has been happy with what he has received in that department.

“You look at it two ways right? He’s doing his job. That’s what he should do. But on the other hand, we know that it can go differently,” Atkinson said. “The proof’s in the pudding. We finish games with him.

DeAndre Jordan
DeAndre JordanCorey Sipkin

“I’m getting to know him better personality-wise, getting to know his game better. … He understands he has a real leadership role with a lot of young guys around him. He’s taken that on seriously. He takes it as a personal challenge to lead this team.”

Jordan has averaged 11.8 points and 14.5 boards in his past four games coming into Saturday’s game against the Hornets. The 37:04 he played Thursday are the most he has logged since Nov. 19, 2018. But that wasn’t just a Joel Embiid thing. It’s a Jordan thing.

“It’s been growing, and it’s a credit to him. He’s forcing us to play him more with his really stellar play. It’s just that simple,” Atkinson said. “We have a two-headed monster there at the center position. But it’s more than matchup-based: It’s been earned by his stellar play.”

Increasingly only one of those heads has any bite. Atkinson has been using Jordan in fourth quarters and sitting Jarrett Allen, who went scoreless Thursday.

Jordan’s mobility isn’t what it once was, but he deters shots instead of blocking them. His 23.8 percent rebound rate is second in the NBA this season and his .669 field goal percentage is tops all-time.

“Oh, man, veteran leadership, being a bigger body he’s capable of putting up resistance against a guy like Joel [Embiid],” Spencer Dinwiddie said. “His rebounding and field goal percentage are some of the best of all-time, just dynamic on the defensive end.”

Joe Harris could be in line for a raise on his $7.6 million deal as an unrestricted free agent this offseason. But he said he would love to return to Brooklyn, partly to play with Durant and a healthy Irving.

“Definitely. Why wouldn’t you?” Harris said. “They’re incredible players. You see what they’re able to do when they’re healthy and playing. I don’t think there’s anybody in the NBA who wouldn’t want to play with those guys.”

ESPN’s Bobby Marks — the Nets’ former assistant GM — said Harris could fit a wing need for Charlotte and be on their radar.

“There just aren’t that many teams in a position this summer to get Joe Harris,” Marks told the Observer.

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