RIVERS WANTS DEANDRE JORDAN TO GET DEFENSIVE

LA JOLLA, Calif. – DeAndre Jordan is going to be front and center all year.Photo of DeAndre Jordan wearing new blue jersey

Entering his sixth season, the affable 25-year-old is expected to have bulk of the responsibility in leading Doc Rivers’ new defense, and according to the Clippers’ head coach Jordan is off to a promising start. 

“D.J. (Jordan) was fantastic today, I thought. His energy, his athleticism,” Rivers said less than 20 seconds into his question-and-answer session with the media following the team’s first training camp practice.

A day earlier, Jordan was on the Media Day dais alongside superstars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Rivers is placing Jordan in that same ilk. He thinks Jordan should contend for Defensive Player of the Year and become a regular member of the All-Defensive Team.

“He will fulfill them,” Rivers said of those goals. “He can because he’s a good player. He’s a great athlete. And he can have a defensive impact any time he’s on the floor. Athletically, he can have an offensive impact on the team. We just want to try to put him in those positions so he can do that.”

Jordan has always been athletic. There is rarely a big man he cannot outrun or out-jump or both. His energy, as often mentioned, can be infectious. Rivers is aware of all of this and he is not asking Jordan to reimagine himself as a player.

“I’m asking him to do [the same things] better and more consistently and take ownership of it,” Rivers said. “And not get sidetracked on the other side. If you’re a great defensive player, then you’re a great defensive player 100 percent of the time. You can’t be a great defensive player half the time because you didn’t get the ball once or twice. That can’t sidetrack him. It’s got to be I live for my defense and my offense I’ll get.”

Jordan’s close friend and front-court mate, Griffin, agrees.

“I think sometimes, just like everybody, we all get frustrated,” Griffin said. “And this is something I have to work on as well. We have to do a better job of masking that and letting it go and making sure we’re contributing no matter what happens.”

Last season, Jordan was wondrous at times, controlling games defensively and making forceful moves to the basket when the ball came to him on the other end. He had 14 blocked shots in a five-game stretch to close the season and scored 10 or more points seven times in November. In 15 games from opening night to Nov. 30, 2012, Jordan had a net efficiency rating of plus-6.1, better than any other Clippers starter.

But those performances did not hold through 82 games. Jordan says he lost confidence, something Rivers has helped instill once again.   

“The first time we talked, the first thing [Rivers] said to me was that he believes in me,” Jordan said. “I think the first thing he said to me was, ‘I believe in you. We’re going to do it here.’ Ever since then I’ve been ready to go and confident.”

There has been no looking back for Jordan since. He was a member of the four-day Team USA Select Team minicamp in Las Vegas. He worked out at home in Houston for some time after that before returning to Los Angeles for good weeks before camp opened. Those were positive signs that Jordan was taking Rivers’ boldest challenges head on.

He showed it again Tuesday in UCSD's RIMAC Arena when he sequestered himself in the furthest corner.  The Clippers’ evening practice was a dozen minutes from beginning and it was just Jordan and Assistant Player Skills Coach Howard Eisley, working on Jordan’s kryptonite… free throws.

Despite shooting a near career-low 38.6 percent from the foul line last season, it is arguably the first time in Jordan’s career free-throw shooting has not been a main subject of conversation. It is more like a sidebar, and Rivers has made it that way.

  “It’s one of those things where for us to be successful, we just need him to play defense and finish around the rim. We’re not asking anyone to do anything they’re not capable of doing. For him to be successful and for us to be successful, he can focus in on defense, blocking shots, rebounding, talking, being the eyes, being the ears, being the voice on defense and things like that.” – Blake Griffin

“He’s going to get fouled and he’s going to have free throw shots,” Rivers said. “Other than that, I’m not a magician. I want him to work on them and hopefully he’ll make them. But I’m not going to talk about them. I don’t think I’ve mentioned free throws to him at all.”

That is likely part of the reason Jordan has felt so confident around Rivers.

“Any challenges he’s going to put in my way, I’m going to embrace it,” Jordan said. “I’m going to play hard because you always trust a guy who believes in you.

“I think defensively I need to come out and establish that early. I’m not saying I’m totally not concerned about offense, but defense is my first, second and third priority right about now.”

The attitude Jordan is adopting is similar to that of defensive mavens Ben Wallace, Dennis Rodman and Tyson Chandler. Rivers firmly believes Jordan can be a similar “star” in that role.

“You look at Ben Wallace, Dennis Rodman, Tyson Chandler, all three guys made the All-Star team. All three guys won a championship. All three guys are superstars,” Rivers said. “You don’t have to do it on the offensive end to be a star. You can be a star and a winner by doing it on that one end. He was pretty much that [Tuesday].”