Even though the Clippers fly on a private jet, the players remain anxious throughout their flights.
When Caron Butler dozes off, he plants one of his long legs in the aisle as a booby trap to alert him if anyone is approaching.
Blake Griffin sleeps with a blanket tied around his head. “I don’t know how he [is] breathing under there,” Reggie Evans said.
What do the players fear?
Clippers center DeAndre Jordan.
Jordan co-founded a movement he calls “got ‘em,” in which he patrols the team plane searching for a teammate who has fallen asleep. After he finds a victim, he snaps a picture and tweets it to his nearly 100,000 followers.
There’s a photo of Chris Paul asleep snuggled under a blanket. Jordan, Butler, Evans, Trey Thompkins and a flight attendant are in the background laughing and pointing at the All-Star point guard.
Another photo features Jordan striking Tim Tebow’s signature prayer pose in front of a dozing Evans, caught with his head tilted back and mouth agape.
“We’ve almost gotten every coach besides Vinny” Del Negro, Jordan said. “I’m not going to get Vinny because I want to keep playing. “
The photo movement was started by Evans at the beginning of the season when he took a shot of Eric Bledsoe asleep on the team bus.
Jordan then took it to the next level, and began waiting for unsuspecting teammates to fall asleep.
“Now everyone on the plane sleeps with their glasses on, hats on their face, covers on their face, trying not to get” photographed, Jordan said.
It’s a source of merriment for the team, and the players say it has strengthened their bond.
“We’re all around the same age, so we really have that brotherly connection and it’s showing on the court,” Jordan said. The Clippers were atop of the Pacific Division at the All-Star break for the first time in franchise history.
“You got to have some type of fun,” Evans said. “You miss your family and … your teammates [are] like your new family and stuff, so you might as well make the best of it instead of being around here down and depressed.”
The “got ‘em” craze helped the players keep their spirits high despite the exhaustive travel in a shortened 66-game season. In fact, one of the team’s proudest moments was when their “got ‘em” photos were shown on television.
“I thought we were more excited by making ESPN with the got ‘em pictures than just highlights, which is crazy,” Evans said.
Now Jordan receives plenty of photos from his fans featuring sleeping parents, spouses and animals, some of which he re-tweets.
The movement is so popular that other NBA teams have copied it. “I need to copyright the got ‘em deal,” Jordan said with a laugh.
To Jordan’s chagrin, he fell victim to his own game during a recent trip to Portland. Knowing that his teammates were eager to retaliate, Jordan said that for two months he’s tried everything to stay awake on flights, including playing cards and just walking around.
But there was a 15-minute lapse when the 6-foot-11, 265-pounder could no longer keep his eyes open.
When he woke up, he jumped. Then he looked at Griffin, who nodded.
Yes, Jordan had been photographed. “I never sleep on the plane now,” he said.