The NBA is like evolution. And Nets center DeAndre Jordan knows it’s adapt or die.
Last season with the Knicks wasn’t Jordan’s best, in terms of either playing time or production, and scouts told The Post he’s not as mobile at 31 as he was at 21. But Jordan said he’s learned from last season, and is still working hard to hone his game and shore up his weaknesses.
“It was tough for me. Last year was kind of a blur. It was a learning experience. It was good for my …” Jordan said on Barstool Sports’ Pardon My Take podcast, taking a long pause before finishing “mental patience. But I’m excited about this year, though.
“I had a cool time when I was there. Knicks fans are great. New York fans in general are awesome. They’re passionate as hell, they know the sports, they know the game. And they’ll call you out if you’re not playing the right way, which is great. But I’m excited about the things that the Nets are doing, and the organization and the guys that we’ve got. So I’m excited.”
Brooklyn is banking on that excitement.
Despite averaging a double-double for a sixth straight season, Jordan was dead last on the Knicks in both Net Rating (minus-18.9) and plus-minus (minus-10.4). With the team tanking and focused on Mitchell Robinson, the Knicks didn’t play Jordan in 12 of his 31 games, including the final seven of the season.
In Brooklyn, he’ll play a huge role on a team with playoff aspirations. The Nets hope that helps get him back to a facsimile of his former self.
“I don’t know what it looked like for him from a motivation standpoint,” Kenny Atkinson said. “With the talent we brought in, I do think there’ll be a heightened sense of motivation on his part. And obviously a nice long-term deal, too. That always helps with player performance.”
Something that would help Jordan’s performance is better shooting.
His free-throw shooting had been historically horrid, to the point he admits he actually used to hide on the court in clutch situations when he knew opponents might foul him and send him to the line.
“For me, Hack-a-Shaq sucked a lot. It sucked big time. I used to go hide and [stuff],” Jordan said. “[I thought] I don’t like this. But after years of that, I got a little better at it this past season and I’m shooting the ball a little bit better.
“I hit a lot of them in practice. I think it’s the 20,000 people [that affected me]. This season I actually didn’t think about anything other than shooting the basketball and it helped me out a lot.”
After shooting just 39.7 percent from the line in 2014-15 — his fourth time under 40 percent — he had improved every year since from 43 to 48.2 to 58. And last season he even hit a career-high 70.5 percent, including 77.3 percent for the Knicks.
“It’s borderline amazing how much he improved. All power to him. That says something about him,” one Western scout told The Post. “The guy had a bad rep that he doesn’t always play hard, but I’ve always heard good things in terms of being very professional, very smart, he knows the position.”
And he knows where it’s going. While he’s just 1-for-11 all time from behind the 3-point arc, big men like ex-Net Brook Lopez, have extended their careers by learning to space the floor. Jordan is fully aware he has to do the same.
“Yeah, everybody’s developing that part of the game, and I’m obviously doing it,” Jordan said. “But I also want to stay on the floor. If I’m shooting 3-point shots just to shoot them and I’m missing them, then I’m old. And I’ll disappear.”
With a four-year, $40 million deal, he’s not disappearing. At least not immediately.
But it’s up to the Nets to get the most out of him. And it’s up to Jordan to adapt. Or die.
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