LOS ANGELES -- DeAndre Jordan is restless by nature.
The Los Angeles Clippers center isn’t the type to simply sit around and do nothing. Even on long team cross-country flights, he’s the edgy one who needs to constantly talk to teammates and coaches. If you aren’t awake to keep him company he’ll usually punish you by taking a picture of your drooling mug and post it on Twitter.
As much as everyone within the Clippers organization praises him for being a consummate teammate, there are probably a laundry list of things he would rather do than sit at the end of the bench during crucial situations in games and be reduced to a highly paid cheerleader.
That is largely why Jordan hasn’t been himself lately as he sits on the sidelines during the fourth quarter with a towel draped over his head and one draped over his lap and watches his fellow starters finish out games without him.
His spot is usually taken by Kenyon Martin, sometimes by Reggie Evans and on Monday night Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro even decided to guard Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett at times with swingman Bobby Simmons, who was called up from the D-League last month and hadn’t scored a point in the NBA since 2009.
“I honestly don’t know why I don’t play in the fourth quarter,” Jordan said Wednesday night after failing to play in the final period for the third straight game. “You’re going to have to ask one of the coaches. That’s the coach’s decision.”
In the Clippers’ 96-82 win over the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday night, which broke the Clippers’ two-game losing streak and three-game home losing skid, Jordan was taken out with 3:28 left in the third quarter for Evans and never saw the court again. It seemed Jordan knew he wouldn’t play again either as he put his head down and tucked a towel over his head and into his shirt.
Del Negro said there has been nothing more behind his benching of Jordan in the final period besides match-ups and how other players were performing.
“I thought DeAndre was very active tonight,” Del Negro said. “He gave us the lead but then we got into a nice rhythm with the other guys. They went small and the second unit had come in and we had a nice flow to our game so I was trying to save our guys a little bit in case we needed a run at the end. I thought the bench gave us a boost. I put Chris [Paul] and Blake [Griffin] in at the end but I thought DeAndre was active. He was good tonight and we’re going to need him to be like that. Sometimes the match-ups don’t work because teams go small. They made some adjustments and they went with four guards.”
Jordan, however, could only smile and shake his head when he was told he has played less than 24 seconds in the fourth quarter in the past ten days.
“Honestly man, I don’t know,” Jordan said. “You’re going to have to ask the coaches. I honestly don’t know. I really don’t know.”
The last time Jordan played more than five minutes in the fourth quarter of a game was March 4 against the Houston Rockets when he played 6:19 and the last time he got in the game in the fourth quarter at Staples Center was Feb. 28 against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He hasn’t played more than a few seconds in the fourth quarter since March 4 and hasn’t touched the floor in the final period since the Clippers returned from their six-game road trip on March 10.
As much as Jordan wants to see the court in the fourth quarter, he hasn’t exactly put himself in a position to always been on the floor in crucial situations. This month he is averaging just 3.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks while shooting 50 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from the free-throw line.
“It’s been different but in some of those games K-Mart was playing well or Reggie was playing well or whoever was playing well,” Griffin said. “Our motto as a team is whoever is hot at the time, not just on offense but on defense, getting stops and in the right spots, that’s who’s going to play.”
The Clippers have more of a “Dynamic Duo” in Griffin and Paul than a “Big Three” like other teams but if they did have a trio to go up against the likes of the Heat, Celtics and Lakers, Jordan would be the Clippers' third player. In the off-season the Clippers matched a four-year $40 million offer sheet Jordan signed with Golden State Warriors. Since the Clippers traded for Paul, it has been Jordan’s picture plastered on the side of buildings and on T-Shirts alongside Griffin and Paul. He is supposed to be one of the faces of his franchise but his face is usually hidden behind a towel at the end of games.
“I think the last couple games DeAndre has played two of his better games,” Del Negro said. “His activity, his energy was good and the next game against [Marcin] Gortat, things will change. Everyone’s got to be ready but I thought DeAndre was very active tonight.”
Jordan simply shrugged his shoulders when he was relayed his coach’s words of encouragement.
“I felt the same way I’ve felt before,” Jordan said. “I feel fine. It’s been tough losing but we just have to get past the losses and just try to get focused on the next game we have.”
Griffin, one of Jordan's best friends, is usually the one on the bench talking to Jordan in the fourth quarter during timeouts and said the past couple weeks have been hard for Jordan but also the team after they lost eight of 12 games. After Wednesday’s win, he said he is hoping things will change, and that change may even include seeing his friend on the court in the fourth quarter alongside him.
“Everyone wants to play and everyone wants to be out there and it’s not easy to sit there and watch your teammates go to battle so to speak without you,” Griffin said. “It’s not just him. If I was in that same position I would feel that too. He’s competitive and he wants to be a part of it and he will.”