It is 3:30 on Friday afternoon, four hours before the Clippers will meet the Cleveland Cavaliers, and DeAndre Jordan already is at Staples Center preparing for that night’s encounter.
The athletic marvel knows his body is his business and it is important to keep it fined-tuned so he can maximize his potential.
Part of Jordan’s now consistent pregame ritual is to join personal trainer Robbie Davis on the court for a series of drills using elastic bands that look like giant rubber bands.
Davis attached the band to Jordan’s right arm, allowing the 6-foot-11 center to flex and stretch up and down and side-to-side with some resistance. They alternated to the left arm, using the same techniques, all of it being done to activate Jordan’s body.
Once that was completed, Jordan worked on his shooting and free throws with Clippers assistant coach Armond Hill and player development assistant Chad Bell, a seven-footer whose size allowed Jordan to work against a center closer to his height.
He left the court to lift weights, get a massage, eat his pregame meal and to “go zone out” listening to his music.
Essentially, Jordan was synching his mind, body and soul for an engagement that required his all.
That is his daily grind fans are unaware of.
“I don’t think they know, but that’s one thing I don’t really need them to. I know what I do and people around me know how hard I work,” Jordan said. “It’s not only on the court but off the court studying game film and studying players and play-sets and things like that. I know how much time I put into it.
Jordan and Davis take the same routine on the road, both knowing how serious the Clippers’ big man is about his craft.
Davis has worked with Blake Griffin, James Harden, Tyson Chandler, Lamar Odom and other NBA players. Few have impressed Davis with their work ethic as much as Jordan has.
“When it comes to preparing his body, he’s as good as anybody that I’ve had,” Davis said. “I think he knows he’s made his career around his body at this point. So he knows, ‘This is my business. My business is my body.’ He has dedicated himself.”
Jordan has applied the same commitment to his free-throw shooting, which has been his personal torture. He worked tirelessly at it during the summer with former Laker Sasha Vujacic and Davis, recalling his constant exasperations.
But that work is starting to pay off for Jordan. He’s making a career-best 61.5% of his free throws. Perhaps more impressive, he’s making 68.8% of his free throws after an intentional foul has led to free throws.
“There were definitely days I was extremely frustrated and those were the days I felt I got better because I had to get over the hump,” Jordan said. “Some days I would go in there and make a ton of them and it would be easy. But the days they were hard and I was pissed off, those were the days that I feel like I got better.”
Jordan is in his 10th season with the Clippers, but he is the last man standing from the big three of him, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, and the core of Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick.
“We developed friendships,” Jordan said. “We went through a lot of ups and downs and building of the organization throughout those times. Me being a loyal guy and the type of guy I am, I think that it’s important that I’m still here.”
Jordan has set the tone for the Clippers during an injury-ravaged season.
It’s more than just his 15.3 rebounds per game, which are the second most in the NBA, his 64.2% shooting, which also is the second most in the league, and 36 double-doubles, which are the eighth best in the league. He’s averaging 11.9 points per game.
“I just think he’s grown all-around,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “He’s just more serious. He’s still the fun-loving DJ, but he’s better in the locker room. He has been great on the floor. He’s prepared more and he’s been the savior for us. It’s not just his basketball, but his maturity.”
“Obviously he’s one of the consistent guys who has been in this locker room for years,” Lou Williams said. “His voice is strong. His presence is strong. Energywise, everybody kind of follows his lead. He’s been that driving force for us.”
The relationship between Jordan and the Clippers has mostly been strong. But when finances got involved this season, things become a little strained.
Jordan wants an extension. The Clippers are interested in giving him one.
Jordan has his one big decision to make. He can optin to a deal that pays him $24.1 million next season or he can opt out and become a free agent and test the market.
“I want to be here. I don’t want it to be based on the one-year option that I have,” Jordan said. “Hopefully there will be an offer that we both can agree on and hopefully I’ll be here. But we’ll figure that out when the time comes.”
Jordan even has met with Clippers owner Steve Ballmer a couple of times to discuss their futures together.
Though no deal was sealed, Jordan walked away impressed with Ballmer’s vision for the Clippers.
“It’s different to be able to sit down and talk to somebody man-to-man about the potential of having a future with the organization you’ve been with for 10 years,” Jordan said. “Like I said, the conversations haven’t gotten anywhere. But I’m going to remain optimistic about this organization and my chances of staying here because I really love this team and obviously I love our coach and the guys I’m playing with.
“Like I said, we’ve got to figure out if this is ultimately what the management wants to do and continue to keep certain guys around. If they do, then it’ll be great and we’ll continue to build and keep this train moving. But if not, then it’s still basketball and I’ll love wherever I’m at.”
CLIPPERS AT CHICAGO BULLS
When: Tuesday, 5 p.m. PDT.
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 570, 1330.
Update: The Bulls are making just 43.8% of their shots, the second-worst shooting percentage in the NBA. But the Bulls are fourth in defensive rebounding, grabbing 35.3 per game.