Nets vs. Knicks: DeAndre Jordan Growing His Game

Mark down Saturday, December 21 as the day teams officially became afraid of DeAndre Jordan: Playmaker.

Brooklyn’s 6-foot-11 center handed out a season-high six assists in the 122-112 win against Atlanta, dishing mostly to cutters out of the high post. After the first few, the Hawks dropped center Alex Len back into the paint to cut off passing lanes.

“I’d rather get buckets,” said Jordan of his growing role as facilitator. “Nah, I like being up there. The guys are doing a great job cutting. It’s just on me to make a pinpoint pass, but they make it easy for me to just pick up my dimes.”

“I want to say he’s almost two to one assist turnover ratio,” said Garrett Temple. “For a center that’s supposed to be a rebounder and rim protector, that’s really good. Love to see him get assists so he can pick up his dimes. But he’s a guy that has definitely, he didn’t have that when he first came in the league and it shows you his ability to get better and adapt to the game.”

Jordan didn’t skimp on his traditional role against Atlanta, grabbing a season-high 20 rebounds and scoring 12 points. It was his fourth game of at least 13 rebounds in Brooklyn’s last eight. For the season, he’s averaging 8.2 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 2.2 assists while shooting 65.4 percent in 21.3 minutes per game.

He’s come off the bench in 23 of his 26 games, and he’s leading the NBA in rebounds off the bench with 9.6.

“You know what you’re gonna get out of D. Veteran. Guy that can really protect the rim obviously,” said Temple. “Put pressure on the basket on the offensive end and get every rebound that comes off the rim. That’s been his game. Obviously the assist, the ability to pass, play off cuts with him. So we need his veteran presence and games like tonight I want to say he played 25, 28 minutes. That was really, really big for us.”


DeAndre Jordan has been the anchor for a second unit that has been in flux throughout the season. Spencer Dinwiddie and Garrett Temple moved into the starting lineup due to injuries a month ago. Wilson Chandler returned from suspension a week ago and two-way player Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot entered the mix, but then the emerging David Nwaba was lost for the season.

Through it all, the Nets have played to a 12-6 record since Kyrie Irving was sidelined one game after Caris LeVert.

“I’m pleasantly surprised,” said Atkinson. “I think when you have guys go down, especially Kyrie and Caris and then Nwaba, who was the real one that hit me. I was like, ‘Man, we can hold he fort, he’s stepped it up.’ Then, we lose him, so we’re in that phase still. Now we kind of have to confirm with this new group without David. But Rodi (Kurucs) stepped up the other night. That’s where I am. It seems like, when we have a guy down, someone steps up and the group comes closer together. But if you take the first three quarters of the Atlanta game, you can argue, man, you guys looked terrible, and I wouldn’t argue with you. We kind of just, (won) with our heart and passion. We’re going to have to see with this group if we can continue, and the schedule gets harder. So we’re going to enter a stretch here, the Houstons, the Dallas’s, what does that look like with a bunch of guys being out?”

The injuries have presented another opportunity for Kurucs, the second-year forward. Last season, Kurucs stepped into the starting lineup and helped charge Brooklyn’s playoff run. But after struggling over the season’s first two weeks, he’s played sparingly since the beginning of November. On Saturday, he scored six points while making all three of his shots against the Hawks.

“They just want me to get my rhythm in and make good decisions,” said Kurucs. “Why I didn't play is because I didn't shoot open shots, was getting turnovers out of that. That's why they sent me (to Long Island). To get my rhythm back and get my feel for the game back. They want me to make the right decisions, make the right plays and make less turnovers.”


Caris LeVert has been sidelined since mid-November after undergoing thumb surgery. On Monday, he took part in practice with the Nets.

“I don’t want to get too excited,” said head coach Kenny Atkinson, “but he did most everything in practice today.”

“Caris looked good. Caris always looks good. He’s a hooper,” said Garrett Temple. “It’s great to have him on the court. Great personality. Great guy, and obviously he can really put it in the bucket for us, do a lot of things offensively. So we can’t wait to get him back full throttle. But it was good to see him out on the court.”


The Nets have won each of the first two meetings against the Knicks this season, 113-109 on Oct. 25 and 103-101 on Nov. 24. The Knicks are 7-24. They are 3-6 since interim coach Mike Miller replaced David Fizdale on Dec. 6.

The Knicks are 30th in the NBA in field goal percentage (42.8) and 29th in offensive rating (103.9). They’re also 26th in defensive rating (113.1) and 28th in net rating (-9.3).

Veteran forward Marcus Morris leads the Knicks with 18.4 points per game and is shooting 46.6 percent from 3-point range. Forward Julius Randle is next with 17.3 points per game and leads the Knicks with 8.8 rebounds.