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The very wonder of being DeAndre Jordan

Brooklyn Nets v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

It’s a lot of money ... $40 million over four years —all guaranteed ... to pay a 31-year-old big man who’s racked up a ton of minutes, but early in his contract, DeAndre Jordan looks like he’s worth it. As Leo Sepkowitz writes for Bleacher Report, the 6’11”, 265-pound Jordan is not just playing well. He’s excelled in another less quantitative role.

He has navigated a somewhat frustrating career to become a uniter of teams, the NBA’s preeminent guru.

“There’s always one guy on the team that everybody’s energy is drawn toward, and he was that guy,” Jamal Crawford, the veteran guard who played alongside Jordan for five seasons with the Clippers, told Sepkowitz. “People see how fiery he is, but he has another side where he’s very calm and understanding. You felt like he was the big brother. He’d put his arm around you and say, ‘Everything will be all right.’”

Sepkowitz adds it’s Jordan’s personality and his philosophy.

As he enters the later stages of his career, Jordan remains beloved throughout the league. Even at 6’11”, his personality is outsized: he wears sombreros to postgame interviews on winter nights in the Northeast; he is an avid Harry Potter reader and Twilight fan (“Team Edward; I was locked in”); he is a deep believer in meditation; he is a vegan—and yes, he’s happy to tell you about it. Baron Davis, an old teammate in Los Angeles, calls him “the funniest dude I know.” In Dallas, where Jordan spent only a few months last year, the Mavericks still talk of his pregame ritual: sprinting across the locker room, leaping as high as possible and diving into the laps of his teammates.

Then, there’s his experience, drawing on all manner of balm to help him and his teammates get through all that the pressures of public life on the court.

Initially, a few years ago, Jordan would lean on guided meditation recordings to help him clear his mind. Now, for the most part, he can do it on his own, rotating through different mantras daily. Tomorrow, he says, he will focus on forgiveness. The point is to acknowledge the negativity and pressure that surround him—the grind of practice, the responsibilities he has with family and friends—but to see those concepts and let them pass by without judgment or concern. “The more I’m getting better, the faster I let those thoughts go,” he says. “Eventually, down the road, I won’t think about anything. Maybe I’ll start levitating.”

Pick-me-ups and pep talks delivered in different ways, from arranging a team dinner in China as international politics threatened to ruin what was supposed to be a good-will mission or delighting his teammates with custom-made handshakes.

“He’s gathering us up, trying to speak with us, like a mental coach,” second-year wing Dzanan Musa says.

“Any time you look at the makeup of really good NBA teams that have star power, they always have reliable veterans that have the pulse of the locker room and connect with the 15th guy but also with the No. 1 option,” Joe Harris adds, synthesizing the effect this way. “DeAndre’s able to bring everyone together.”

It’s highly unlikely that Jordan would be playing for the Nets or lighting up the Nets locker room if Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, his teammates on the gold medal-winning 2016 Olympic team, didn’t press Sean Marks to bring him on. They knew his value.

Word was —and word was true— his buddies had initially agreed to take less money to bring him on. But some very smart and very underrated capology permitted everyone to get what they wanted, in guarantees or bonuses. Jordan, asked about it by Sepkowitz, wouldn’t go there.

“Did they? Those are great guys, man,” he says, falling back in laughter. “As far as money goes, I don’t know how they did that. I dropped out of college, so I don’t know.”

Sepkowitz recounts how KD had helped him at various points during their career, from dealing with fan screeds after his decision not to join the Mavs to “dad talk” about family.

“We’ve been through a ton of s--t,” Jordan says of his relationship with the Nets two superstars. “We didn’t care about any backlash or any talk. We’ve all been through that, so how bad is it going to be?”

All his locker room buttressing aside, Jordan is playing well, coming off the bench to average eight points, 10 boards and two assists. Two games ago, he had a historic performance off the bench against Atlanta: 12 points, 20 rebounds and six assists. Only two NBA players — one of them Charles Barkley — had done that before and without him, the Nets would have lost.

The combination of him and his protege, Jarrett Allen, has given the Nets a nice tandem at the 5 while the rest of the rotation is in turmoil.

“It’s tough, you get frustrated,” Jordan says of the NBA grind. “But at the end of the day, we’re playing a game. It’s a serious game, but it’s a game. We take it serious, but we gotta have fun with it. I want to have fun with life.”