Eric Patten @ericpatten | 3/12/12

The Clippers need DeAndre Jordan.

Early in the year, when the Clippers were arguably the hottest team in the league, Jordan was a key factor. He patrolled the paint, amassing four blocks or more in six of the team’s first 20 games, including a career-high eight rejections on opening night versus Golden State. He was active, connecting almost instantly with Chris Paul for a variety of lobs as well as tip dunks on the offensive glass. And he even showed brief glimpses of a budding post game, using a one-dribble spin move or a jump hook on occasion.

“There’s not a lot of young, 7-foot, athletic, physical guys out there,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “We need him to be a force for us, especially defensively, altering shots. And there just aren’t a lot of those guys around.”

For more than a month, much of Jordan’s high-energy, enforcer mentality has dissipated. He’s only managed double figures in scoring five times since the end of January. And even as the team has forced the issue to get Jordan early touches within the offense, it has not yet spurred a breakout performance.

Del Negro has said on several occasions that Jordan doesn’t need the ball to score and, to some extent, Jordan’s the classic example of a young player whose game on one end of the floor is affected by his play on the other.

“D.J. scores when he plays with energy, runs the court, sets screens, dives hard, gets offensive rebounds, and it’s a working position,” Del Negro said. “And you have to work every night. You’re not always going to get the basketball, but he has the ability with his size and athleticism and the way he can impact the game for us, he’ll get enough offensive touches if those other things are there. But they have to be there consistently to be a factor in games.”

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  • Foul trouble, illness, and a minor shoulder injury may have played a part in Jordan’s struggles. It doesn’t help that his playing time has also been on steady decline. Since power forward/center Kenyon Martin made his Clipper debut on Feb. 8 against Cleveland, Jordan has only twice exceeded 30 minutes of court time. In the last seven games he’s averaged 18.7 minutes, accumulating 22 fouls and 24 points during the stretch.

    “We need D.J. to play at a high level with energy every night, understand what his role is and accept his role, lock people down defensively and control the paint.”

    “We need him inside making plays for us.”