- Arash Markazi, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
LOS ANGELES -- A smile crept over DeAndre Jordan's face as the question was asked, and you knew exactly what he was thinking.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but when it comes to Jordan's facial expressions, sometimes they're worth more than that, as his now famous "Dunk Face" proved earlier this month.
The face Jordan made Saturday night as he sat in front of his locker after playing over 35 minutes and putting up 13 points and 12 rebounds won't be plastered on any shirts anytime soon, but it may be the start of something big for the Los Angeles Clippers.
When Jordan was asked if he thought he could put up similar numbers if given the opportunity to play 35 minutes or more per game consistently, he simply smiled and stayed quiet before finally saying, "I hope so."
The five-second delay and smile before his modest answer made his actual response feel like, "You better believe it."
It's the kind of attitude Jordan is going to need if Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro is going to trust him to play 35 or more minutes per game and, more important, close to nine minutes in the fourth quarter, as he did in the Clippers' 101-95 win over the Brooklyn Nets.
"It just depends," Jordan said. "Everybody wants to be out there for 48 minutes but that doesn't happen. A lot of the times when you aren't out there you're pissed, but you're cheering on your teammates and you hope you get a win."
When the Clippers matched Golden State's four-year, $43 million offer sheet to Jordan before last season, they thought Jordan was well on his way to becoming one of the best big men in the NBA. And while Jordan has shown flashes of that, more often than not his offensive shortcomings get in the way of what he can provide defensively.
Jordan is averaging 8.8 points and 6.9 rebounds in 24.0 minutes. One of the big reasons he is averaging only 24 minutes -- his lowest since his second season in the league -- is because he is only shooting 40.5 percent from the free throw line. Despite working with new Clippers shooting coach Bob Thate all summer, Jordan’s free throw numbers have actually regressed. His free throw average is worse than his lowly number from the previous two seasons, which hovered around 50 percent.
In the month of March, Jordan is shooting a lowly 27.3 percent from the free throw line. Jordan hasn't shot over 40 percent from the line in a month since November and December.
That's a big reason why the Clippers have been more inclined to play Lamar Odom late in games at center. Not only does he stretch the floor and open up room in the paint for Chris Paul to operate, but Odom is a career 69.4 percent foul shooter. He is struggling from the line this season (46.9 percent) but you can throw out his numbers from the start of the season when he was out of shape. He's shooting 66.7 percent from the line this month.
Saturday was only the ninth time this season Jordan has played 30 or more minutes in a game and only the third time he has played 35 or more minutes. That obviously had a lot to do with Brooklyn's frontcourt of Brook Lopez, Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace. The common trend in the games when Jordan plays more than 30 minutes is that the opposition has a comparable big man in the game late -- teams such as Brooklyn, Oklahoma City, Utah and the Lakers.
"It just depends on the matchups with the other team," Jordan said. "If they're playing small ball I'm obviously not going to be out there. But if I come out with energy and intensity hopefully I'll be out there."
Del Negro said he would like to see Jordan played more minutes, but that it really depended on Jordan and what the opposition was doing.
"Lopez is obviously big so we needed some length on him," Del Negro said. "A lot of teams now go small and don't always have a big in there as much as a guy like Lopez. Obviously, he's a very skilled big guy. DJ battled him tonight. I thought DJ was very active and made some plays over the top for us."
When Paul sat down and looked at the box score after the game, he centered his attention on Jordan and the player he wants him to be during the stretch run of the regular season and heading into the playoffs next month.
"DJ was impressive," Paul said. "DJ was a game-changer for us. Sometimes it doesn't show up on the stat sheet when he changes a shot but 13 and 12 -- we say it all season long -- but that's something he can do every night. ... It's crucial because we need him. We need him big time. I think he knows that and he needs to know that. With him in the game, he's a game-changer. You can't bring it in the lane, he's an unbelievable shot-blocker and he changes shots. We need him on both ends of the floor."