During milestone year, Jordan proves he's still one of NBA's best

During milestone year, Jordan proves he's still one of NBA's best

by Caden Kinard

LOS ANGELES — The Clippers’ most tenured player gazed into his memory, reflecting on his decade with the team.

“I was here when it was horrible times,” said Clippers center DeAndre Jordan. “I’ve been here for good times, great times. I’m honored to be here.”

The Clippers finished the 2007-08 season with a record of 23-59, missing the playoffs for the ninth time in 10 years. With the poor record, the team slotted high in the draft, eventually selecting guard Eric Gordon with the sixth pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, with aspirations of Gordon transforming into the star of the future.

Yet it was their second round pick – the 35th pick to be exact – that provided the Clippers their future franchise anchor, who recently completed his tenth NBA campaign, arguably one of his best.

“In my mind, DeAndre’s the ultimate Clipper,” Ralph Lawler said, the play-by-play voice for the Clippers over the last 30+ years.

The journey since drafting Jordan has unquestionably been the most eventful in Clipper history, a decade that included seven playoff appearances and franchise-altering player acquisitions. Through it all, Jordan has remained at center for the Clippers, carving himself onto the Mount Rushmore of Clippers’ lore.

Jordan has placed on the All-NBA first team once (2016), sandwiched between two All-NBA third team honors (2015 & 2017). He was an Olympian in 2016 and an All-Star in 2017.

He’s played 750 games for the Clippers. On Jan. 30 of this past season, he became the team’s all-time leader in games played, passing Randy Smith, who appeared in 715 games across nine seasons with the Buffalo Braves and San Diego Clippers. When asked about the moment, Jordan answered with humility, a trait that reflects in his on-court play.

“It’s super cool to be with a franchise long enough to do something like that,” Jordan said.

Jordan has long proven to be one of the most consistent players in the league and is coming off one of his best seasons to date. He averaged the most rebounds of his career at 15.2 per game, which was also good for second-best in the NBA. He finished second in the league in field goal percentage, connecting on 64.5 percent of his shots.

In addition, for only the third time in his career, Jordan averaged over four offensive rebounds per game (4.3), and for only the second time in his career, he shot above 50 percent from the free throw line, finishing the season with a career-high clip of 58 percent.

“He affects our offense more than people think, as well, because of his rolling, his ability to get behind the defense,” said Clippers head coach Doc Rivers. “You miss D.J. when he’s not on the floor, there’s no doubt.”

At his best, Jordan dominates the paint, running his 6-foot-11, 275-pound frame from end-to-end. The best example of his superiority on the interior came in his career-night on Feb. 14 in Boston, when he scored 30 points on 11-of-14 shooting, while also grabbing 13 rebounds and 4 steals.

When Brad Stevens and the Celtics cycled through their defensive adjustments, they resorted to intentional fouling Jordan. He answered by shooting 8-of-9 from the line for the night.

A month later in Chicago, Jordan converted 11 of his 12 attempts from the field. The Bulls defenders started showing Jordan so much attention, he displayed a passing ability rarely seen, throwing 5 assists to go with his 29 points and 18 rebounds.

It’s safe to say Jordan has obliterated the expectations held by most when he entered the league a decade ago. As he continues his potential Hall-of-Fame career, it’s evident that his tenth year was certainly one of his best.