Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Jordan becoming an offensive force
By Arash Markazi
PLAYA VISTA, Calif. -- DeAndre Jordan's improvement over the offseason has been so noticeable during the first few practices of the Los Angeles Clippers' training camp that it usually finds its way into every post-practice conversation with a player or coach without even bringing it up.
"I didn't know DeAndre had those kinds of post moves," Grant Hill said after the second practice.
"DeAndre looks incredible," Matt Barnes said after the fourth practice.
Jordan simply smiled when he was told about the high praise he has been getting from his teammates.
"Damn, they kind of set the bar high for me," he said.
Jordan's improvement, of course, is no accident. The 24-year-old center, going into his fifth season and just his second as a full-time starter, has been working on his game nearly every day this offseason from the end of June until the start of training camp last week.
"I've been working with our coaches and our new shooting coach, just getting up a lot reps," Jordan said Tuesday. "I'm putting it into one-on-ones, summer five-on-fives and now in training camp and everything feels comfortable."
Jordan's critics will argue there really wasn't anywhere for Jordan's game offensively to go but up. He was such a liability with the ball in his hands, and certainly from the free-throw line, that he spent the fourth quarter of most games on the bench last season. Jordan has improved at the free-throw line the last three seasons, going from 37.5 percent to 52.5 percent but shot just 33.3 percent from the line during last season's playoffs.
"Everybody wants to play late," Jordan said. "Everybody wants to be clutch, especially with my ability to play defense down stretch and get stops. We have a lot of scorers, but it comes down to it we have to get stops. Free throws were a big deal and we worked on that this summer, and this season I feel confident that I can play down the stretch and help us get wins."
Developing Jordan's post game and improving his free throws were the central theme of his exit meeting with Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro, who worked with Jordan this offseason along with assistant coach Marc Iavaroni and shooting coach Bob Thate.
"When you're playing the top teams in the playoffs, possessions are huge and if teams are going to foul us we need to make them pay at the free-throw line," Del Negro said. "If you're not able to knock free throws down on a consistent basis, it's going to change things. We need DeAndre out there and Blake [Griffin] and all our big guys on the defensive end to control the glass and get possessions back for us. It's a big factor."
Iavaroni simply wanted Jordan to develop one or two go-to moves in the post and counters to those moves. He wanted him to be good enough offensively that teams had to at least respect his 6-foot-11, 265-pound frame when the Clippers had the ball.
"It's having D.J. understand and all of his teammates understand that if he's our fifth threat, the other team can no longer play five defenders on four people," Iavaroni said. "If it's a post-up, then it's a post-up. If that means he's always being seen and can catch and finish, then it's that. If it's off of a pick-and-roll, if it's off of a slide-cut on a pick-and-roll, it's that. He's made some very good plays that haven't led to him scoring but has led to him being respected as offensive player. That's the overall goal. Teams are not going to just be able to foul him with impunity anymore. He's going to make his free throws."
Jordan said he watched a lot of tape of himself from last season, especially during the playoffs and noticed his positioning when he got stripped of the ball and his footwork during his shots. He knows he hasn't corrected all of his issues, but likes where he's at going at this point in training camp.
"There are still some things I want to improve on, but I feel like I have improved tremendously from last year," Jordan said. "Whenever I get the ball in the post, I'm confident down there. As long as I take my time and don't rush it, I feel like I'm going to get something good. I'm going to score, I'm going to get fouled or I'm going to make the right play to somebody else. When my teammates give me the ball now that makes me even more confident."
And if the first few practices of training camp are any indication, Jordan will see the ball more this season than he ever has before.