LA JOLLA — On the first day of the Clippers' training camp here Tuesday, Coach Doc Rivers praised DeAndre Jordan, saying his center was "fantastic today" in a defensive role.
And that is where Rivers wants Jordan to make his mark on the game for the Clippers.
"You don't have to do it on the offensive end to be a star," Rivers said after the first of twice-daily practices on UC San Diego's campus. "You can be a star and a winner by doing it on [defense]. He was pretty much that today."
At 6-11 and 265 pounds, Jordan is a tremendous athlete with leaping ability, and Rivers sees him as a defensive force.
But the 25-year-old Jordan, who has been inconsistent in his five previous seasons, has averaged just 1.5 blocks per game over his career and 6.6 rebounds.
"I'm asking him to do them better and more consistently and to take ownership of it and not get sidetracked on the [offensive] side," Rivers said. "If you're a great defensive player, you're a great defensive player 100% of the time. You can't be a great defensive player half of the time because you didn't get the ball once or twice. That can't sidetrack you. It's got to be 'I live for my defense, and my offense I'll get. But I can't let it affect my defense. Nothing affects my defense.'"
For his part, Jordan said all the right things after practice, calling defense his "domain."
"I've got to be ready to take ownership in it. I'm not going to totally not be concerned about offense," Jordan said. "But defense is my first, second and third priority right about now."
Rivers even talks about Jordan making the NBA's all-defensive team and perhaps even being the defensive player of the year.
Surely, Rivers was asked, those are high expectations for Jordan?
"Well, he will fulfill them because he's a good player," Rivers said. "He's a great athlete and he can have a defensive impact any time he's on the floor. And athletically, he can have an offensive impact on the team. So we just want to try to put him in those positions so he can do that."
Rivers said the Clippers had a "strong defensive practice" Tuesday, much of it fast-paced drills.
"Right now, I think some of the guys were surprised at the pace," Rivers said. "We didn't take a lot of breaks. We just went from one to the next to the next to the next. So we got a lot of work in today. I think all of our guys have to get used to that pace."
The Clippers' first-round draft pick Reggie Bullock didn't practice Tuesday because of a sore right knee.… Rivers said free-agent forward Lou Admundson, who was impressive during workouts at the Clippers' facility the last two months, "is one of those energy guys that you like having on your team."
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