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Ed Davis and Jared Dudley, a little yin and yang helping Nets make it through

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NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Brooklyn Nets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Ed Davis and Jared Dudley are different in a lot of ways. Davis is Mr. Inside, Dudley Mr. Outside. Davis is more low key, Dudley more out front. Davis at 29 may be having the most productive season of his career. Dudley, four years older, is winding down ... but has found a nice on-court niche in Brooklyn. And they arrived in different ways. The Nets signed Davis as a free agent out of Portland, while Dudley came in a salary dump that also won the Nets a prized second rounder in 2021.

But the one way they are similar is that they form, along with DeMarre Carroll, the veteran presence on a team whose current starting line-up averages 22 years, 266 days. When they line up vs. the Phoenix Suns Sunday evening, they’ll be up against one of the few NBA teams that are younger ... by 138 days

So yeah, a veteran presence is needed.

Davis and Dudley work things in their own ways, offering help on and off the court and no one is happier with them than their coach, Kenny Atkinson.

Of Davis, Atkinson says simply, “I’m in love,” as he told James Herbert of CBS Sports who suggested this week that Davis might be the NBA’s best teammate. He’s been more effusive about Dudley, saying of him, also this week, “He’s that guy at the park. He’s got tattered sneakers, he’s 42 years old, but he stays on the court because his team is winning.”

Where’s the magic come from? Davis told Herbert it’s quite simple.

“Being real,” Davis said. “That’s the main thing. Being professional. Working hard. Guys respect that. ‘Cause obviously I’m not the most skilled guy. I know I’m not a shooter. Nothing about my game is flashy. But I come to work every day, I play hard, I’m respectful to everybody. I speak to everybody, talk to everybody. I’m trying to win. I literally put team first. Some people say that, but I literally do that. I know my role. All that has a lot to do with it.”

The numbers show it. As Herbert writes, “The hustle stats page on the league’s official website functions as an advertisement for his game.” Nowhere is that more true than in rebounding percentage as Howard Megdal pointed out on FanSided.

Historically, he’s grabbed 18.3 percent of all available rebounds in his career, including 12.9 percent on the offensive glass. Those numbers jumped to 21.3 and 13.7 last year, and this season, Megdal notes, reached 25.4 and 19.1 — good for second in the NBA in total rebounding percentage and first on the offensive boards. Per-minute, Davis ranks first in box-outs and ninth in screen assists.

His value as a teammate, of course, extends beyond the hustle stats, beyond any stats. Herbert recounts how when former Net Wayne Ellington Jr., a teammate at North Carolina and with the Lakers, lost his father in a drive-by shooting, Davis was there, not just driving him home from the arena where he heard the news but being there when he was needed.

“He made it so much easier for me just because we already had that bond,” Ellington said. “It’s tough, dealing with something like that. You look for family to be close to, or whatever the case may be. He was my family on the team.”

A lot of Davis’ former teammates say the same thing. Damian Lillard told Herbert, “If it was up to me, me and Ed would be teammates for my entire career.” Both Lillard and C.J. McCullom were quite upset when the Blazers let him go for the bargain basement price of $4.4 million for one year.

Same is true in Brooklyn, as seen particularly in the relationship between Davis and Jarrett Allen, who attributes his improved rebounding and drive to Davis.

Early in the season, Herbert notes, Atkinson asked Allen about it. “Shit, I watch Ed do it,” Allen told him -- Davis’ swim moves and surreptitious pushes under the rim got his attention.

And as Herbert notes, there’s a circle to it all. Allen is learning from Davis who says he learned about drive and hard work and rebounding from Reggie Evans!

But it’s more than that. We can recall on Media Day when Davis was walked onto the court at HSS Training Center, heads turned. He has presence, charisma.

“The positive effect of a guy like that has on your program is probably more than you’d even think,” Atkinson said. “And I think it works conversely, too: Like, if we had a negative influence in that position, it probably would hurt us more than we’d think. I can’t tell you how much [general manager] Sean [Marks] and I believe in that.”

Davis told Herbert —and our Anthony Puccio— he’d like to come back after his contract runs out in June. Considering how much love he gets from everyone, that sounds quite doable.

Dudley wants back as well. He’s at the end of a three-year $30 million deal that pays him $9.5 million this year. He turns 34 in July but he too thinks he can contribute next season as well.

“This is probably the time I get a lot of tweets like ‘Jared Dudley still in the NBA?’” he noted on Twitter last week. “Yes I’m here! And I’m goin’ to be here at least a couple more years.!

He has described himself as the “OG Uncle” to the team’s young players and he has both publicly supported and scolded them. He told NetsDaily early in the season how he had tried to help Caris LeVert.

”After the first game we played Detroit, we had a film session,” Dudley said. “I approached him. It’s a couple clips. It’s something I wanted him to see. A lot of it I saw where Blake (Griffin) was coming over where he was challenging Jarrett Allen at the rim. I was the guy being open that’s most likely if he passes me the ball, it’s a rotation, I’m going to give it up. Just to make them pay. Sometimes if I hit a three, then maybe Blake won’t come over.

“A lot of the stuff that I do is just spur of the moment when I see clips and try to help people take that further development.”

His teammates appreciate it. On Sunday night, Rodions Kurucs put Dudley’s help in the context of the team.

“We support each other, we got each other’s backs, in the locker room we talk about the game, about everything,” said the rookie. “The guys are helping me, JD (Jared Dudley) is helping me a lot, talking to me and explaining things to me, what I have to do.”

And he backed up Atkinson when he was ejected Friday. All of it very public. That’s him.

”I think it was justified. You want your coach standing up for your players,” Dudley said. “If he’s out there screaming, you know there’s a reason why. You want your coach to have your back, and he took those two techs. Now you know you have someone in your corner fighting for you.”

But when the Nets lost their eighth straight, he was there as well.

“We’re to a point now, it’s happening too often, seven, eight games, and the way we’re losing, it’s like Groundhog Day,” Dudley ranted.

“We’re losing in very similar ways, not playing smart basketball, not doing little things … rebounding, stupid turnovers, not knowing shot selection, time on the clock, fouling bad shots, putting them on the free throw line. We’re playing bad basketball in the last five to seven minutes, and it just seems like we’re out there and we’re not making enough adjustments.”

Atkinson said he was on board with Dudley’s criticism, a players’ only video session with Dudley up front followed and of course, the next game, the Nets beat the team with the best record in the NBA, beginning a seven-game winning streak.

Dudley also loves tweaking the opposition as he did after the Nets beat the Lakers with him scoring 13 points and hitting a dagger near the end. Post-game, Lakers coach Luke Walton cited his team’s inability to control Dudley as one reason they lost.

“With all due respect to Jared Dudley, he shouldn’t have three blow-by layups on us in the fourth quarter at this stage of his career,” said Walton, post-game.

Dudley replied on Twitter, no doubt a smile on his face.

“Wasn’t a blow by.. They was switching every screen, so on my dribbling hand-offs, I set it up all game by passing them to my teammates until the fourth. That’s when I started to fake the pass and kept my dribble towards the rim. Not about speed it’s about the angles and timing.”

His support of young players —and disdain for those vets who don’t— extends to other teams as well. It’s about the game. When Bleacher Report published a story quoting Cavalier veterans saying Collin Sexton doesn’t know how to play, Dudley responded on Twitter. Natch.

“Huh??? Man he’s a rookie and we’re eight games in! Veterans are suppose to teach him and watch film not give your quotes about a BS article,”

On the court, fans have slowly begun to appreciate that old-man style. As Atkinson noted, Dudley facilitates, doesn’t hold on to the ball, plays some possum, gets it done. And yeah, teaches on court as well as off.

It’s hard to know if Marks and Atkinson planned to pair the yin and yang of Davis and Dudley or just let it play out. Maybe they realized they needed additional voices. Last season, they thought they had two —Carroll and Jeremy Lin— but Lin went down and then out to Vancouver, leaving Carroll alone in the role.

Whatever. It works. Well.