That could have entailed navigating a stretch of 40 games or so with Zaza Pachulia or JaVale McGee as the Clippers' primary big man. "Shudder" might not be a strong enough word to describe the reaction among the team's fans.
Pachulia and McGee would have been among the fallback options for the Clippers had Jordan followed through on his five-day commitment to the Mavericks last summer in free agency. The Mavericks signed both players after Jordan spurned them.
Pachulia has had a steady if unspectacular season, amassing 24 double-doubles but fading a bit in recent weeks amid reduced playing time upon the arrival of David Lee. McGee has played only sporadically off the bench.
Jordan has capably manned the interior for the Clippers since Griffin last played on Christmas, sidelined first by a quadriceps injury and then by a broken right hand sustained while punching team assistant equipment manager Matias Testi.
Jordan's production has surged in Griffin's absence. He's averaged 14 points and a league-leading 15.3 rebounds per game since Christmas and largely carried the Clippers on Saturday against the Atlanta Hawks before his sustained struggles at the free-throw line prompted Coach Doc Rivers to remove him from the game for 2 1/2 minutes late in the fourth quarter.
Rivers reasoned that replacing Jordan with forward Wesley Johnson would provide the Clippers with more shooting. It also left them with less rebounding, and Atlanta's Paul Millsap converted a putback to help the Hawks extend their lead during an eventual 107-97 victory.
"You want to play and compete, but I'll live with Doc's decision and run with it," Jordan said after the game. "I have to be able to make the free throws and be able to make at least one out of two for the team, but at the end of the day we have to get stops, which we didn't. They made us work throughout the shot clock and they got a lot of offensive rebounds and we ended up giving up a lead, which is tough."
Jordan made five of 12 free throws after being intentionally fouled and seven of 17 overall. It was the only blemish on a night in which he finished with 17 points, 11 rebounds, five blocks and four steals.
Rivers credited the Hawks for mostly using the intentional-fouling strategy while leading.
"Every time they got a lead they used it, and that's the way you actually are supposed to do it instead of when you're down," Rivers said. "I thought they did that. I thought it was effective."
The decibel level could be Jordan's biggest nemesis Monday during his second trip back to Dallas since last summer. The noise and a defense set on mute foiled the Clippers during a 118-108 loss to the Mavericks in November.
"For us, it should be another game, but I'm sure the crowd will remember forever," Rivers said of Jordan's change of heart. "But I don't think it's going to be as big a deal as it was the first time."
Jordan refused to acknowledge the game nearly four months ago was anything unusual.
"It was another game the first game," he said.
Small forward Luc Mbah a Moute is expected to sit out against the Mavericks, the third consecutive game he's missed since suffering a lacerated left eyelid last Monday against the Brooklyn Nets. . . . The Clippers assigned second-year guard C.J. Wilcox to the Canton Charge of the Development League.
CLIPPERS NEXT UP
When: 5:30 PST.
Where: American Airlines Center.
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 980, 1330.
Records: Mavericks 33-30; Clippers 40-21.
Record vs. Mavericks: 1-1.
Update: There remains an outside chance these teams could face each other in the first round of the playoffs, though Dallas' 116-114 overtime loss to the Denver Nuggets on Sunday didn't help. The Mavericks trail the Memphis Grizzlies by 4 1/2 games for fifth place in the Western Conference standings. The Clippers are in fourth place, two games behind Oklahoma City for third place and 3 1/2 games ahead of the Grizzlies.
Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter: @latbbolch