INSIDER: DEANDRE JORDAN COULD BE READY FOR BREAKOUT

DeAndre Jordan getting ready for tipoff in the Team USA Basketball Showcase
DeAndre Jordan at USA Basketball Showcase in Las Vegas, NV.

LAS VEGAS – It is likely too early to draw conclusions.

There are two long months before the start of training camp, three months before any games matter and by the standards set by the Clippers over the last two seasons it is still nearly a calendar year until the games truly mean something.

That’s where center DeAndre Jordan, who wrapped up a four-day mini-camp with Team USA in Las Vegas Thursday, and his career arc will ultimately be judged. The postseason. But given that caveat, the idea that there is so much undetermined as the hottest days of the scorching Las Vegas summer still lie ahead, Jordan seems ready to make the leap from prodigious talent to potential All-Star.

According to Jordan, it starts with being a leader.  

“I’m trying to take that back to the Clippers,” Jordan said after his 10-point, nine-rebound, two-block performance in Team USA’s Blue-White intra-squad scrimmage at Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of UNLV. “I’ve learned so much here and I’m definitely going to take that back and incorporate it with our team. I’ve definitely benefitted from this week.”

That was the hope from Clippers brass when they learned Jordan was chosen by Team USA to participate in mid-June. If Jordan is going to become the third member of a star trio already including Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, this week was the first step. It has been brought up throughout the Vegas camp that players like Kevin Durant and Kevin Love returned from their lengthier Team USA experience in 2010 to make the leap. 

If his showing at the four-day mini-camp is any indication, Jordan’s ready, too. In five seasons with the Clippers, no player has had their development poked and prodded as much as the smiley young center. He has gone from second-round gem to rising youngster to starter to hearing all of the criticisms that come with playing in the nation’s second largest market on a team positioned for a deep playoff run.

The free throw struggles, lack of fourth-quarter playing time and inconsistency on both ends of the floor have been documented ad nauseam. It is almost comical, at times, to think that a guy who entered the league after just 21 starts at Texas A&M has come under such scrutiny so quickly. But that comes with the territory, perhaps.

That’s why seeing and hearing about Jordan’s activity, interest level and general upbeat approach over his time in Vegas is so promising. He has talked about offseason improvement before. Last year, he made a point of refining elements of his offensive game while working with John Lucas in Houston. But he said nothing compares to getting to compete at the level Team USA demands against so many elite young players.

It is not often that you see an exhibition game in the middle of summer, generate the level of intensity of Thursday’s scrimmage. Jordan seemed intent on doing little things. He led everyone in rebounding, out-leaping people for boards, at times, but also getting in better position to haul in caroms. He bounded from one side of the lane to another, passing off cutters. He was a presence. He was, without being overly precise, really, really good. And most of all, he was the DeAndre Jordan that could change things for the Clippers next season.

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