Lakers sign veteran center DeAndre Jordan
The definitive play of DeAndre Jordan’s career happened more than eight years ago, the then-Clippers center rolling after setting a screen and catching a lob pass from Chris Paul. He snagged the ball, cocked it back with his right hand and unloaded a ferocious dunk directly in the face of helpless Detroit Pistons guard Brandon Knight.
While the crowd tremored in excitement, Jordan walked awaywith his eyes unapologetically widening. It was “Lob City,” an era of Clippers basketball, personified in one violent stroke of excellence.
The team signed the 33-year-old center and 13-year NBA veteran to a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract after he was released by the Pistons and cleared waivers. He’s the latest in a lengthening line of former All-NBA players looking for a championship run on a team loaded with veteran star power.
“I had great years when I was with the Clippers. And that franchise was amazing to me. And I appreciate the time I was there, for sure,” Jordan said. “But like I said, I’m focused on now and this team, what our goals are ultimately and what we want to do. And I’m just really excited to be here. This is a great opportunity for me. And I just want to take full advantage of it.”
Jordan will be comfortable with his role — defense, rebounding and finishing at the rim. He’s comfortable as a complement to stars. With the Lakers, he’ll team with LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook. Before that it was with Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden. And before that, it was with Blake Griffin and Paul.
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But there are questions about whether he can still be an effective player on a team with championship aspirations.
Jordan spent the last two seasons with the Nets, the Lakers’ East Coast doppelganger. Jordan’s role with Brooklyn disappeared late in the season and he didn’t appear in any playoff games. He was traded in the offseason to Detroit, where he received a contract buyout, setting the stage for Jordan’s free-agent return to Los Angeles.
“Just both parties wanted to figure out something that was best for both of us,” Jordan said. “And I feel like they gave me that respect as a veteran player to be able to understand that I wanted to be able to compete. I’m a competitor, man. We all are in this league. And we want to be able to be out there and competing.”
Jordan didn’t say if his role with the Lakers would be as a starter or as a reserve. But in his repeated desire to “compete,” it’s clear that he expects to play.
He said he’s excited to play alongside Dwight Howard, a player he admired before he began competing against him. Howard even posted a photo of the two together on his Instagram account.
Absent, perhaps tellingly, from the talk was the other center under contract with the Lakers, veteran Marc Gasol. As it stands, the frontcourt is probably too crowded for three centers who expect to contribute on one roster. It’s an even tighter squeeze when you consider that the Lakers’ best lineups often feature Davis playing center.
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If Jordan can carve out a significant role, he’ll get a chance to compete for something bigger than an iconic dunk, even if NBA.com selected it as the best dunk of its decade — a championship that has eluded him throughout his career.
“As you get older you start to see different things, and honestly with the Clippers teams that we had, we had some bad luck,” Jordan said. “On the team that I was on last year, we had a little bad luck with injuries and some small things like that. But you definitely don’t want to take it for granted.”
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