Where is the 3-point shot the Nets threw all that money at?

SAN ANTONIO – Allen Crabbe is the highest-paid Net, and he’s paid to shoot.

So far he hasn’t. And the rest of Brooklyn’s season may hinge on when he finally starts. Or if he ever starts.

“Listen, he’s struggling a little bit,” coach Kenny Atkinson admitted of Crabbe as the Nets prepared for Tuesday’s game at San Antonio. “I feel like he’s getting decent looks. I thought he attacked the rim [in the last game], which I liked. Maybe that can get him going a little more, getting to the rim.

“I don’t think he’s driving close-outs as well as he should. They’re closing out on him. He’s got to dribble, and [Saturday] he did it — he did it driving. Listen, the guy’s a 42 percent career 3-point shooter. We’re going to keep trusting him and trusting it.”

It’s actually a career 40.1 percent, but so far Crabbe hasn’t even come close to giving Brooklyn that. Or value on his $19.3 million salary, the highest on the Nets and fifth highest in team history.

After the Nets inked Crabbe to a huge four-year, $83 million offer sheet in 2016, they saw Portland match it and the sweet-shooting wing go on to finish second in the entire league in 3-point shooting at 44.4 percent. Brooklyn traded for him this summer, but so far hasn’t gotten his renowned shooting stroke.

Crabbe has hit just 14-of-53 from 3-point range over his last seven games, his .364 from deep his worst since 2014, before he became a NBA regular.

“It happens. For me the biggest focus is stop settling so much,” Crabbe said. “I know I said the ‘shooters shoot’ quote, and we do. But me trying to find easier ones as well would help the confidence. Seeing the ball go through the hoop instead of seeing like four or five 3s rim out or miss.

“Just finding easier ways to score — trying to get some back cuts, or trying to get some offensive rebound putbacks, just something to see the ball go in — that will happen. I’ve been in this situation before, I’m a shooter. I know what I’m capable of. It’s just one of those slumps. Keep putting the extra work in, it’ll turn around.”

For Crabbe, going to the rim may be how he gets out of this rut.

His 2.8 drives per game are by far the lowest of Brooklyn’s perimeter players, with even jump shooters Joe Harris at 3.5 and Nik Stauskas at 4.8. For perspective, Spencer Dinwiddie averaged 11 and injured D’Angelo Russell a team-high 12.3. Basically, driving just hasn’t been part of his game.

In Crabbe’s last two games before missing the Dec. 15 tilt in Toronto, 25 of his 27 shots came from behind the arc. But he’s started to drive the ball and had 14 points against Indiana, with seven of his shots from inside the arc.

Now Crabbe and the Nets continue a five-game road swing Tuesday. They’ve lost four of five, trying to break a habit of slow starts.

“It starts with us, the starting five. We’ve been talking about it as a team, what it is we can fix and what the problem is. Looking at the film, it does start with us, the starting five,” Crabbe said. “We have to start the game with more energy, all of us, including myself. We’re trying to feel the game out in the beginning instead of hitting first, being physical.

“A lot of teams have been getting comfortable to start the game. … So I feel like for us we have to come out and be physical, bring the energy first. And we have to initiate everything. Don’t let them get the first hit on us and then we have to play catch up. It’s us getting up big and then maintaining it. I think it’s just us coming out more physical and with more energy.”

Filed under 12/25/17