BIG THINGS ON THE HORIZON FOR JORDAN
DeAndre Jordan’s presence is undeniable.
It is evident when he spins off the rim after an alley-oop; the ones where he catches the ball with two hands, more than 4-feet above the rim before throwing it down; evident in the way he treats most blocked shots like a volleyball spike; and equally evident in the way the fifth-year center carries himself.
He’s vivacious, enthusiastic, and genuinely well-liked.
Chris Paul referred to him as “my guy” during Friday’s Media day session. And Jordan’s new teammate and seven-year NBA veteran Ronny Turiaf said, “Working with him [Jordan] and talking to him, you can tell that he has the ‘it factor’ because he has something special in him.”
On the basketball court, there are few big men as athletic, and even fewer as intimidating on the defensive end. He averaged 2.0 blocks per game in his first season as the full-time center last year, including a dynamic eight-block performance on Christmas night against the Warriors.
“Dude [Jordan] is a monster, that’s all I’ve got to say,” Turiaf added. “He’s very athletic, he runs very fast. He’s a great rebounder, a great defender. To me, and I know I’m going out on a limb, but he reminds me a lot of the Bill Russell type of player that blocks shots with his left hand and can impact a game so much on both ends of the court.”
Jordan aspires to be like Russell, even changing his jersey number from 9 to 6 prior to last season in order to pay tribute to the winningest big man in NBA history. Yet despite Jordan’s seemingly unlimited potential, the 24-year-old is still settling into his role as the Clippers’ anchor.
“I think you have to take steps at a time, but if he understand he’s out there to control the defensive glass, to block shots, to run the court, to set good screens, and the other stuff will come,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “If he’s able to accept his role and understand his role all the other things will happen because he’s so athletic.”
The final two months of the lockout shortened year may have been frustrating for Jordan. He spent long stretches of the fourth quarter on the bench In the postseason and registered just four blocks in a game once over the final 16 regular season games.
The Clippers coaching staff has exceedingly high expectations for him heading into 2012-13, though. And according to Jordan’s teammates, he’s put in the man-hours over the summer to make a larger imprint on the game, particularly on the offensive end.
Paul said, “DJ [DeAndre] developed a lot during the summer and I’m excited to get out there and see what it’s all about.”
A SUMMER OF WORK
Asked how he spent the four-month offseason, Jordan answered: “[Working] on as many things as I could. Vinny [Del Negro] and the coaching staff hired a shooting coach [Bob Thate], so I’ve been working with him a lot this summer. To improve my free throws I went back to the mechanics and really learning how to have form and shoot the ball, so I have to get comfortable with that. I feel like it’s definitely turning around and I’m noticing a difference.”
Jordan’s stroke from the line, where he shot 52.5% last season, is noticeably different. He appears to lean back a little, and has a consistent rhythm and rotation as he releases the ball.
After spending about a month with his family and working with former NBA head coach John Lucas in his hometown of Houston, Jordan returned to Los Angeles for good. “[I was] working with our coaches on my offensive game, just feeling comfortable, getting up as many reps as possible with my back towards the basket and facing up.
“I’d get as many reps up and then [transfer] it to pickup games, and play one-on-one against Blake [Griffin], Ryan Hollins, Ronny Turiaf, and guys like that which is good because it’s not going against dummy defense.”
Clippers assistant coach Marc Iavaroni said the goal was to help Jordan, who was third in the league with 137 dunks last season, grow into a role offensively that expanded beyond the pick-and-roll.
“He’s a great dunk guy, but you can’t dunk everything, so number one was getting some really clean looks and working on his soft touch, learning how to play off the ball physically, but more importantly slowing down,” Iavaroni said.
“He’s got so much athleticism and exuberance and enthusiasm that we want his skills to be at a controlled speed, a skilled speed. We want him to always be playing within his capabilities and as they go up, he can play faster and faster and I think he’s done a good job of understanding that.”
Other points of emphasis for Jordan this summer included playing with leverage, reacting better to mistakes, and making sure he plays with consistent energy from possession to possession.
“He’s had a great summer, he’s in great condition,” Del Negro said. “A lot’s expected of him, and it should be, and he knows that, so now it’s a matter of getting out there and doing the work. I was pleased with his conditioning coming into camp. He passed his conditioning test easily. He’s worked on his game a lot over the summer especially with Marc Iavaroni, our staff, and Dave Severns, so big things, I think, are in store for DeAndre.”