Without question, veteran center DeAndre Jordan is the man caught in the middle of the Nets’ revolving player rotations. He went from starter to not playing for the five games started by LaMarcus Aldridge, and since Aldridge suffered an irregular heartbeat and decided to retire, Jordan has returned to the starting lineup in a more limited role.
Nets coach Steve Nash said Jordan, Nic Claxton, Blake Griffin and Jeff Green all can play center, which is why future lineups will be matchup-based, starting Sunday afternoon in Miami.
"When you look at our fives — DJ, Nic, Blake, Jeff — they all bring something different," Nash said. "I think that is to our advantage to mix and match on a night-to-night matchup basis. It gives us what we think could be a perceived advantage or the lesser of two evils when you face some superstars."
Nash praised the professionalism displayed by 13-year veteran Jordan when he went to the bench so Aldridge could be evaluated and the defensive role of Claxton could expand.
"DJ has been great," Nash said. "I asked him to be patient with me . . . because something always comes up. He accepted it. In a sense, he got caught in a position where not only we wanted to take a look at guys, but they were new and we had to see how they fit and what worked. So I asked him to be patient for a week or two, and that has kind of taken care of itself."
Jordan said his approach was to remain professional and support his teammates. "Selfishly, individually, it’s obviously not ideal for me, but being on a team, you have to be able to sacrifice and put the team first and I’ve done that night in and night out," Jordan said. "I’ll continue to do that because we know what the ultimate goal is and that’s for us to reach the pinnacle.
"Our lineups have changed so much throughout the season, where I’ve started, I’ve come off the bench, we’ve gone small. Whatever it is, we just have to adapt."
In three games since he returned, Jordan averaged 11.0 points and 8.7 rebounds and made 15 of his 16 field-goal attempts. But he was limited to barely 17 minutes in Friday’s win over the Hornets because other lineups were more successful defensively.
Griffin, a former six-time All-Star, finds himself in a similar spot to Jordan but has found a role playing off the bench alongside Claxton. His emphasis has been on being physical as an undersized center but versatile enough to switch on defense, take charges and step out to shoot the three.
Griffin cited Jordan as the example for how to adapt. "DeAndre for several games wasn’t playing as much, but he’s been in the weight room every day," Griffin said. "He’s been on the court getting extra work in, staying in shape. That set a great example for the rest of us because, if DeAndre can start all these games and then go to the bench and do that and then be ready again, nobody has any excuses . . . That’s our mindset here. You’ve got to stay ready and execute when you’re called."