The old adage traditionally passed down from NBA coaches to NBA rookies struggling to play their way into the rotation goes something like this: “stay ready and stay focused because opportunity will knock.”
For 20-year-old LA Clippers rookie DeAndre Jordan, that cliche has turned into prophecy.
As Marcus Camby, Chris Kaman, and Zach Randolph watch the Clippers-game carnage unfold from the bench due to lingering injuries, the depth-strapped and long-foundering Clipper Ship were finally forced to give the starting nod at center to Jordan, a raw seven-footer drafted in the secound round after playing just one year at Texas A&M.
Coach Mike Dunleavy really had no other choice, despite the fact that Jordan had logged 20 DNPs over the team’s first 31 games, with all but one of his 11 appearances amounting to nothing more than ineffectual garbage time. Dunleavy’s only other option in the middle for now is Cheikh Samb.
It’s only been a few games, but Jordan’s early returns are intriguing if nothing else. Heading into Monday night’s tangle with the Trail Blazers, in four turns as a starter Jordan has averaged an impressive 10.5 points, 12.3 rebounds, 70% FG, and 3 blocks. Looks good on paper, but most NBA players are capable of filling up the boxscore if given 35+ minutes and little competition in the paint and on the glass from teammates. Is this kid for real?
I’m not masochistic enough to tune into and sit through many Clippers games, and admit to having not yet to see the big man in action. For an insider’s view on Jordan, then, here’s some thoughts from Kevin Arnovitz over at Clipper Blog, the Web’s foremost authority on everything Clippers:
Jordan has some horrible tendencies, which you might expect from a 20-year-old rookie who spent most of his one year at college coming off the bench. The most painful Jordanism to watch is his habit of trying to throw down every potential dunk with spectacular force when an easy two-handed jam would do fine. Jordan’s hijinks are particularly cringe-inducing when he tries to do this eight feet from the basket standing still. It’s like a ten year old at a pool table trying to hit a cue ball in the open field without the aid of a granny stick. Jordan also needs some work defending the high screen and roll.
Whatever Jordan lacks in grace on the [screen and roll], he makes up for on the glass. He finished with 20 total rebounds, seven on the offensive glass [against the Warriors]. When we say a big man has “a nose for the ball,” that often just means that he has the good timing and quickness, which is the case with Jordan.
It’s also worth noting that in addition to Jordan’s inability to defend the pick-and-roll against the Golden State Warriors, he was on the floor for much of Andrew Bynum’s dominating 42-point, 15-rebound effort in the Lakers’ 108-97 win over last Wednesday. Significant refinement is clearly needed on both ends of the floor before the Clippers consider handing him the keys to the middle.
If you’re a Clippers fan, though, you have to take what little you can get this season (and please, do step away from the ledge, it’s only basketball.) That means watching the young trio of Jordan, Eric Gordon, and Al Thornton get as many minutes together on the floor as possible to see if they can start to develop some chemistry. They are potential building blocks of this franchise, not Marcus Camby, or Zach Randolph, or Baron Davis for that matter.
What does this 10-34 team have to gain from relegating Jordan to limited minutes once/if Kaman and Camby are healthy again? Maybe a few more wins and less lopsided blowouts? There’s a bigger long-term commitment to Kaman–he’s signed through the 2011-12 season–but at this point the Clips should be scrambling to move Camby before this season’s trade deadline.
Jordan is raw, and unpolished, and needs a lot of work. Fine. The Clippers should be able to live with that. This team is going nowhere this year, so there’s no better time than the present for Mike Dunleavy to keep knocking on DeAndre Jordan’s door.
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DeAndre Jordan Photo Credit: Icon SMI