Advertisement
Share

DeAndre Jordan a joy to behold, except at the foul line

Sure, I teased him.

Gave the super crummy free-throw shooter the whole Page 2 treatment. It was his time.

I know. He’s still so raw, so young and I ordinarily wouldn’t waste time on someone who owns only one car.

But DeAndre Jordan has had time to settle in, showing enough that the Golden State Warriors tried to swipe him from the Clippers, showing enough that Donald Sterling paid more than $40 million to hang onto him.

Now his name is on the All-Star ballot along with Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups and Blake Griffin, thereby recognizing him as a potential force in the NBA.

“The thing about potential,” Jordan says, “it means you haven’t done anything yet.”

Love the guy, and we were just getting started. What a fantastic discovery. He’s sitting here smiling with the ease of someone who apparently is very comfortable just being a fun-loving DeAndre Jordan even though everyone knows he’s a super crummy free-throw shooter.

Throw some more junk his way. Tell him that a giant of a man like himself who is capable of jumping over Blake Griffin and a small car as well should be averaging more than seven rebounds a game and he says, “I should have more.”

Advertisement

How do you follow that up?

Tell him it’s ridiculous to have someone standing so near the basket as he does and averaging only four shots a game.

“We have a lot of scorers on our team,” he begins, his primary job setting screens to free up everyone else.

“I don’t want to hear it,” I tell him. “I want two more shots a game.”

“That’s what I’m going to do then,” he says.

“I figure you’ll make one of them.”

“I believe I will too,” he says with a grin, and as much time as there is spent here on athletes who don’t get it, there really are those who are a pure joy.

He begins Saturday’s game with Milwaukee taking the Clippers’ first shot. He misses. I didn’t say he was supposed to go Kobe on everyone overnight.

The kid is all arms, legs and energy, and he has everything it takes to annually become a candidate for defensive player of the year. Yet there’s nothing defensive about him, seemingly unaffected by his good fortune. Now if he could only roll to the basket so smoothly and score some more.

When it’s suggested he appears lost on the court at times and out of control as one might be jumping from one trampoline to another, he nods.

“I have to do a better job of not taking myself out of position,” he says. “Don’t want to put it on my teammates.”

Instead of biting back and making sure it’s known he leads the league in blocks a game, he says he needs to do a better job of blocking the ball and keeping it inbounds.

The Clippers are last in the league in rebounding, so consider their future if their top leaper really does progress.

Of course, that’s what some were saying when Jordan went to Texas A&M, his development stalling, a potential lottery pick falling to the Clippers in the second round.

But who cares? Now the world is his for the taking, with a little help from Paul, Griffin and Billups, who specialize in making others look better.

“How lucky am I?” he says.

As solid as Jordan comes across, we’ll have to watch to see where he parks his car down the road. But right now it seems as if someone has done a good job raising the young man.

“I owe a lot to my mom and grandmother,” he says, a tattoo on one shoulder a tribute to his grandmother who advised him how to handle frustration. He has the name of his mother and three brothers on his other shoulder.

I’m sure there’s room somewhere for a tattoo if someone can help him with his free throws.

My suggestion: Stop taking a huge sigh at the line as if getting ready to jump off a 30-story building.

“I’m trying to calm my nerves,” he says.

“It’s a free throw; nothing more monumental than that.”

“If I just went up there quickly and shot,” he says, “the photographers under the basket would be catching it.”

He missed his first free throw against Milwaukee, hit his second and let’s just say that improves his season average.

“There have been times when I’ve been in a slump; well, I’ve always been in a slump,” he says. That’s not a surprising bit of self-deprecating humor given that his best friend on the team is Griffin.

“I’ve had all kinds of people help me, but when I go up there trying to remember like a thousand things, I almost break the backboard.”

It’s painful to watch, everyone in the building probably feeling the embarrassment that Jordan surely must feel.

“I’ve been embarrassed in the past,” he admits. “I’d get fouled and think, darn, I don’t want to airball this. So I focused on at least trying to hit the rim.”

I’m guessing that’s what Ron World Peace is doing these days every time he shoots from the outside.

He’s better now after a talk with himself earlier this season changed his approach. “Now I look forward to going to the line,” he says, although he still looks like someone not sure whether the bungee cord is going to hold.

“Hey, I know I’m not going to be a 20-point guy with the team we have,” Jordan says as he looks ahead. “But I’d like to show people that I can shoot the ball.”

What a great idea for a Clippers promotion: Helmet night, so Jordan shoots without concern and no one in the crowd gets hurt.

t.j.simers@latimes.com


Advertisement