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February 20, 2019

Knicks hope DeAndre Jordan can recruit buddy Kevin Durant to Garden

February 6, 2019

The Knicks acquired something else while trading Kristaps Porzingis: a conduit and recruiter to Kevin Durant.

New York’s line on DeAndre Jordan is they hope he can mentor their young centers, but, as the Daily News has learned, the Knicks also view him as an asset in their pursuit of Durant.

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Jordan, after all, is close with Durant and served a similar role while with the Clippers in the summer of 2016. Durant ultimately signed with the Warriors, but cited Jordan as the reason he even considered L.A.’s stepchild franchise.

“More than anything, he was a real friend,” Durant told reporters at the time. “He wanted me to come to the Clippers, but he’s going to be my friend no matter what. I gravitated toward being around that, wanting to be around genuine friendships no matter who you play for, what you do, what decisions you make.”

The relationship between players spans 12 years, with Durant actually serving as Jordan’s recruiting host during a visit to the University of Texas (Jordan eventually chose Texas A&M). Now the roles are reversed.

Can DeAndre Jordan pitch Kevin Durant on the Knicks? (MARK RALSTON / AFP/Getty Images)

It’s a good reason to believe Jordan will be treated well during his time with the Knicks and won’t be dealt before the deadline Thursday. Even if Jordan is not around for Durant’s actual free agent meeting with the Knicks (he’s a free agent himself in the summer), he can talk with his friend over the next few months to give a pitch or impressions of the franchise.

According to the Mercury News, Durant and Jordan remained so close over the years they vacationed together in Greece following the 2016 Olympics. Durant said they shared a bond over being criticized for their free agency decisions (Jordan was lambasted for reneging on a commitment to sign with the Mavericks in 2015).

“I think that’s what we kind of had in common,” Durant said after signing with the Warriors. “Him going to Dallas and then having second thoughts about wanting to stay here around the people he grew up with, wanting to stay with this organization. Him making that decision was bold, it was a tough decision, it made him uncomfortable, but it grew him as a person and as a basketball player. I felt the same way about my decision. It made conversation. It made us get to know each other better and having things in common as far as work related. It helped having someone that could relate to what I went through.”

Jordan, 30, was acquired by the Knicks in the seven-player blockbuster that sent Porzingis to the Mavericks. Jordan started at center in his first day with the Knicks, and was in the lineup again Tuesday night for a 105-92 loss to the Pistons that dropped them to 10-43.

He is on a $22.9 million expiring deal and will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer, so the Knicks – who have hopes of signing Durant and another max star – may not be able to bring Jordan back. But they could also use the mid-level exception (almost $9 million per season) to sign Jordan this summer, so it’s certainly possible. The Knicks have another of Durant’s buddies – Royal Ivey – as an assistant coach. Ivey and Durant were teammates on the Thunder for two seasons. Durant once called Ivey his best friend in the league.

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