JORDAN PLAYS ABOVE RIM FOR CLIPPERS
LOS ANGELES – The play that may have defined DeAndre Jordan’s best outing of the young season came early in the fourth quarter when he rejected a DeJuan Blair layup from behind, briefly stared at the crowd and then turned to sprint up court.
Or maybe it was when he jumped into the passing lane, tipped the ball away after an errant pass by Kawhi Leonard and wound up with a breakaway double-pump dunk on the other end.
Both of those plays were indicative of Jordan at his best the last season and a half: athletic and energetic.
But the “new” DeAndre Jordan emerged in spurts as well during the Clippers’ 106-84 win over the previously unbeaten San Antonio Spurs; the Jordan who has a more deft touch around the rim and anchors the paint on both ends of the floor. It was the Jordan that showed up through much of the preseason, but had yet to emerge through four games since the season opened a week ago.
“He’s playing above the rim and we got some defensive stops, which got us out on the break so he was able to get some easy layups or dunks there. I thought he did a pretty good job staying behind the defense and rebounding the ball,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “The extra effort plays were there tonight. He has to bring that energy to every game no matter who we’re playing or how physical the game is, or how many fouls he has.”
Jordan finished with 20 points (10-of-12 shooting), four blocks and a team-high 11 rebounds. It was not statistics, though, that made the difference as much as it was the effort that Del Negro described.
“When DeAndre comes out of the game, we lose a lot,” Chris Paul said. “We lose his energy on the offensive end and the defensive end. He is one of our most valuable players and we definitely need him on the court.”
Jordan made the most of his 27 minutes, patiently setting up moves on the block, knocking down two right-handed jump hooks and flipping in a layup to go along with a six dunks, including two alley-oops. The dunks grab a majority of the attention, but Jordan seemed proud of the little things that went well for him against the Spurs.
“I worked on [being more patient] a lot this summer with the guys here and the coaches,” Jordan said. “As long as I take my time and don’t rush and avoid double-teams then I’ll be alright.”
For Jordan, patience seems to come with confidence. During the offseason Assistant Coach Marc Iavaroni worked with Jordan on, among other things, slowing down. Jordan’s penchant for hurrying, or making moves without first reading the defense, had been somewhat of a hindrance during his first four seasons in the league. Iavaroni said it was a matter of going 85-percent speed, as opposed to 100. And on Wednesday, it appeared things for Jordan were more under control than they may have ever been.
Blake Griffin, who had a 22-point, 10-rebound night of his own, said with the right frame of mind his frontcourt partner can be a handful for opponents.
“When DeAndre is on his game, he’s tough,” Griffin said. “He can score; he can catch anything four feet above the rim, no matter where it is. He can alter, block shots and just intimidate people from trying to put up a shot. When he‘s active like that, he controls the paint.”