DeAndre Jordan can ice the aching feet. He can wrap the tired knees.
Soothing his newest defensive asset requires a more creative remedy.
“A lot of tea,” the Clippers center said late Saturday night. “Something with a lot of honey in it.”
That’s right, nothing says quality defense quite like Jordan’s motormouth, which is running from the opening tip to the final buzzer.
Just go to a Clippers game and listen. He’s often talking on defense even before the ball crosses halfcourt, letting his teammates know what’s happening and what they need to do about it.
“I’m out front and I can’t see everything behind me,” Clippers point guard Chris Paul said. “On the defensive end, D.J. is in charge and he’s doing a great job of navigating and telling us where to be.”
Consider it Doc’s orders. New Clippers Coach Doc Rivers has told Jordan he wants him to be extremely vocal as part of his efforts to become the NBA’s top defender.
Jordan judges his success by whether he’s hoarse after games. If he still has his voice, he reasons, he hasn’t been chatty enough.
His play has also given teammates plenty to talk about. He is on pace to obliterate his previous career bests in almost every meaningful category, averaging 11.5 points, 13.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game.
He rolled up 16 rebounds, a season-high five blocks and enough vocalization to leave him speaking at almost a whisper after helping the Clippers hold on for a 110-103 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday.
“I’m screaming pretty much the whole game,” Jordan said. “But as long as that keeps us on a string and everybody knows where to go, as long as they hear my voice, then I’m doing my job.”
Jordan is also making 43.9% of his free throws, an improvement from the 38.6% accuracy of last season, and is a more regular participant in fourth quarters.
After playing in only 30 of 82 fourth quarters last season, Jordan has appeared in all 10 this season heading into the Clippers’ game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday at Staples Center. He’s averaging 7.7 minutes per game in the fourth quarters, up from 5.0 minutes last season.
Not that opponents have changed their late-game tactics against him. He has been intentionally fouled in the second half of the Clippers’ last three games, prompting Rivers to yank him twice.
Brooklyn’s Reggie Evans grabbed Jordan with 4 minutes 25 seconds left in the fourth quarter Saturday and the Nets trailing the Clippers, 92-90. Jordan made one of two free throws and then departed with 4:11 remaining after Rivers called a timeout.
Jordan reentered with 1:19 left, never having pouted during his nearly three minutes on the bench.
“I’m very proud of D.J.,” Rivers said. “No. 1, when he comes out, he’s good. He doesn’t want to come out — he shouldn’t — but when he comes back in he has his focus. So nothing’s getting in his head. He still plays that same way, he blocks shots and he’s a smart basketball player.”
The 6-foot-11 Jordan was constantly in denial mode against the Nets, shadowing Evans as he drove into the lane and then swatting his shot with his left hand. Jordan later sent a Jason Terry jumper flying across the court and into the scorer’s table.
Jordan’s teammates have seen these displays in spurts but never with this kind of consistency. Jordan has scored at least eight points and grabbed at least eight rebounds in every game this season.
“The crazy thing about D.J. is, he’s been capable of this for a while,” Paul said of a player who at 25 is still in just his sixth NBA season. “I think for him, he just realizes he’s on the cusp of realizing his potential. He is unbelievable. There’s nobody who is as big and athletic and coordinated as him. He’s still going to continue to get better and better.”
The Clippers are still waiting for Jordan’s defensive prowess to become contagious. The team is giving up 105.7 points per game, third-highest in the league.
“We still have a lot of work to do and it’s not just one person,” Jordan said. “If we are all connected defensively, then it’s a team thing.”
Clippers center Ryan Hollins attributed Jordan’s putting everything together to realizing how much his team needs him to be at his best every game and to his trust in Rivers, the latter of which was on display after the game Saturday night
As Rivers walked past Jordan’s locker and yelled, “D.J.!”, Jordan immediately turned away from the reporters surrounding him to see what his coach wanted. Nothing, really.
“Take care,” Rivers said before disappearing through a door.
And with that, Rivers left the talking to Jordan, putting his team’s tallest orator back in a more comfortable spot.