PLAYA VISTA, Calif. -- Of all the additions the Los Angeles Clippers made in the offseason, perhaps the two biggest may turn out to be a mid-range game for Blake Griffin and a post game for DeAndre Jordan.
The Clippers’ young and athletic frontcourt duo were criticized last season, and especially during the postseason, for an offensive game that was severely lacking -- outside of their high-flying dunks.
Both players struggled at the free-throw line, with Griffin shooting 52.1% from the charity stripe during the regular season and Jordan shooting 52.5% with a dreadful 33.3% showing during the playoffs. Perhaps an even larger issue during games as defenses clogged the paint was both players’ ineffectiveness outside of their comfort zone. While Griffin hit 73.7% of his shots at and around the rim, he was 27.7% from 10-15 feet. Jordan’s game outside of the paint has been non-existent up to this point. He has only made two shots outside of the key in his career, both taking place last season.
To shore up this problem, the Clippers hired renowned shooting coach Bob Thate, who has been working with Griffin and Jordan since June. Thate was the New Jersey Nets’ shooting coach from 2005 to 2008 and has worked with Jason Kidd and Vince Carter.
The first thing Thate did was breakdown both players’ shooting form before building it back up, which wasn’t an easy process.
“The first couple of weeks I didn’t like it at all,” Jordan said. “I’m going to be honest with you. I didn’t like it because I was too cramped in shooting the ball. But when he recorded it and I saw it, it looked like a good shot.
“Before when I would shoot the ball, I really didn’t have control of the ball. I thought I did, but he broke it down. The first two weeks I was taking the ball and putting it on my forehead just to get used to it. Now I’ve put everything together and I’m working with him every day.”
Griffin, who shot 64% from the free throw line his rookie season, also had difficulty adjusting to his new form when he first began working with Thate.
“It’s definitely frustrating but you have to stick with it,” Griffin said. “That was my main thing. No matter how poorly I shot one day I had to stick with it because it’s one of those things you completely change what you’ve been doing and it takes a while to get used to it.”
Griffin’s time with Thate during the off-season was broken up. He began working with him in the middle of June but that got cut short when Griffin left for Team USA’s training camp in Las Vegas.
Thate flew to Vegas to work with Griffin but barely got to see him when Griffin suffered a torn medial meniscus in his left knee during training camp that required surgery. About three weeks after his surgery Griffin and Thate worked on form shots, after four weeks they worked on free throws and after six weeks they worked on jump shots.
“A lot of times when I would shoot I would fade back a little bit unnecessarily and sometimes I would hang and keep the ball up high for a while and we’ve pretty much gotten rid of all that,” Griffin said. “Now it’s a matter of getting reps and shooting the same way every single time.”
Griffin said you won’t notice a dramatic difference in his shot physically but obviously anticipates a big difference in it statistically.
“It’s not one of those things where you’re going to look at it and go, ‘Wow, it’s completely different,’” Griffin said. “But for me the feel is different and it’s much more compact. I feel there’s less chance for error but I still have a long way to go.”
For Jordan, the breakdown of his shot will be slightly more noticeable as he tucks in his elbow and taps the ball on his forehead before releasing the ball and following through down the center and not allowing his arm to fall to the left or to the right.
“I’m confident in my shot now,” Jordan said. “It’s improved. … It was tough at the beginning and I’m still working on it but I’ve definitely improved a lot since last year.”
Jordan also worked out with Clippers assistant coach Marc Iavaroni most of the summer on developing a more refined post game.
“I’ve worked on go-to moves and got as many reps as possible,” Jordan said. “Left-hand jumper, right-hand jumpers, counter moves. I really wanted to work on that just in case if I got the ball in the post. I really wanted to be a force in there for us this year.”
No one is more excited about the development of Griffin and Jordan than Chris Paul, who wants to see how much his teammates have improved once they start playing games.
“Man, they worked their tails off all summer long, both Blake and D.J. ... ,” Paul said. "I’m excited to get out there and see what it’s all about.”