Clippers’ Fate up to DeAndre Jordan
The Los Angeles Clippers opened training camp with media day on Monday, with hopes Coach Doc Rivers will propel the team well past the first round of the playoffs.
Last season the Clippers had one of the best years in franchise history with 56 wins, only to fall in the first round to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Rivers, who replaced Vinny Del Negro, said on Monday that he believes the Clippers have a real chance to win their first NBA title.
“I look at our team and I think we have a chance to do something,” said Rivers. “When you look at the players that are on the paper and if we can get them on the floor, and performing together, I think we can be a special team.”
The Clippers are loaded at both guard positions and at small forward. Blake Griffin is one of the best power forwards in the game. Chris Paul may be the top point guard in the NBA.
For the franchise to take the next step, center DeAndre Jordan needs to emerge as a consistent, dominant defender.
“I like size,” said Rivers. “I know size wins.”
The challenge for Jordan will be to be an impact player every night. Throughout his five seasons, his production has come and gone.
“I think he will be consistent. I’m looking at DeAndre Jordan as an all-defensive player,” said Rivers. “I think he should be on the all-defensive team. I think he should be a candidate to win the Defensive Player of the Year award.
“That is going to require consistency for him to do that. We need him to be the captain of our defense. I’m putting a lot on his plate,” continued Rivers. “All the other stuff will take care of itself. If he does that job, I’m not that concerned about anything else.”
So far the Clippers coach has had made a positive impression on Jordan.
“I’m confident. He makes me even more confident,” said Jordan of Rivers. “So do my teammates.”
Last season, Jordan averaged 8.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. The difficulty for Jordan was his meager free-throw percentage, hitting just 38.6 percent from the line.
Can Jordan do everything Rivers asks of him if teams are intentionally fouling Jordan repeatedly, trying to force Rivers to put the athletic six-foot-11 center on the bench?
“I want him to be a great free throw shooter,” said Rivers. “I’m prepared for him to be whatever he’s going to be. I’m not that concerned by it as long as he’s not concerned by it, in a mental way.”
“It is an issue,” he continued. “There are going to be games where you’re going to have to make a decision and that’s fine too. I tend to want to stay big at the end of games, so he’ll be on the floor a lot.”
Behind Jordan the Clippers have Ryan Hollins, Byron Mullens and even Griffin filling in at the five. Lou Amundson was also signed as a camp invite.
Jordan joined Griffin and Paul as the Clippers’ “big three” at media day, fielding questions together. The Clippers can’t get it done with two stars. Jordan doesn’t have to score to be a hero for the Clippers.
“I know that defensively it starts with me down there. I have to communicate to my teammates,” said Jordan. “I have to set an example as well. Defense is my main priority and offense is going to come second.”
If Griffin and Jordan can successfully anchor the Clippers defense, the franchise may actually have a chance to compete for a title.
“We want to have them on the floor as much as we can,” said Rivers. “We want to prove that they can play together.”
Jordan will have every opportunity to succeed — the rest is up to him.