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Lakers’ DeAndre Jordan reflects on the ‘grind’ he endured on path to 10,000 rebounds

Lakers center DeAndre Jordan gestures to a teammate.
Lakers center DeAndre Jordan shares a laugh with a teammate while warming up for a game in Memphis.
(Nikki Boertman / Associated Press)

DeAndre Jordan ducked his head and walked into the transformed closet connected to the Lakers’ locker room where the veteran center was about to speak to the media after reaching an historic career milestone.

He was mostly empty-handed — he didn’t even have the game ball with him — but such is the life of a player blessed with Jordan’s skill. You grab the ball; you toss it to someone else. Maybe if you’re lucky, you get it back.

Such is the life of a rebounder. And with more than 10,000 rebounds, Jordan’s one of the best ever.

“Early on in my career, I was trying to find where I could be successful and where I could stay on the floor as much as possible,” said Jordan, who played his first 10 seasons with the Clippers. “And it was defending, getting rebounds, altering and blocking shots. Rebounding just kinda became something that I fell in love with.”

LeBron James had 33 points, Avery Bradley scored 22, and the Lakers defeated the Thunder 116-95 on Friday night in Oklahoma City.

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It was a necessity — playoff battles with Memphis forced Jordan and the Clippers’ frontcourt to toughen up quickly if they were going to be contenders. As a second-round pick entering his fifth season, Jordan became emboldened after new Clippers coach Doc Rivers elevated him to star status alongside Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.

Jordan responded by leading the NBA in rebounding the next two seasons, kicking off a streak of seven straight seasons in which he averaged 10 or more rebounds before eclipsing 10,000 on Friday night, the 41st player to do so.

“It’s amazing,” Jordan said. “… From being a second-round pick to not really playing a lot my rookie year, to us getting some pieces and playing a lot, playoff runs, individual accolades, things like that, going to the Olympics was amazing. Things like that. Making my first All-Star team was awesome. So I think everything I’ve gotten in this league, I’ve had to grind for, and that makes me appreciate it even more.

“So thinking about 10,000 rebounds, it’s great.”

Jordan’s milestone days might be over now that he’s in a supporting role with the Lakers. With Anthony Davis questionable after missing Friday’s win at Oklahoma City, the Lakers once again could use Dwight Howard and Jordan against Orlando on Sunday.

As the team tries to find its way, Jordan knows it’ll require sacrifice. Everyone was encouraged with the way the Lakers showed it against the Thunder.

LeBron James achieves a career milestone for triple-doubles, but it’s not enough to prevent the Lakers from losing to the Memphis Grizzlies 108-95.

“We have a ton of talent, and we have guys who could lead the league in scoring if they wanted to — have led the league in scoring. And guys who are capable of creating their own shot,” Jordan said after the game. “But I think right now, when we have so much talent, it’s going to be easier for us to get better shots and easier looks, and catch-and-shoot opportunities, re-drives and things like that. So I think tonight we played for each other.

“We do that a lot of times, but sometimes it kinda stalls and we get a little stagnant sometimes. But I think tonight we had very little moments like that, and it showed the way we were popping the ball around.”

Who knows whether or not the ball from his 10,000th rebound found its way back into Jordan’s possession. If not, all he left the arena with was some aches and pains, and a new place in history.

“Just the gradual steps I’ve taken in my career early on and just building, and trying to make that something that’s just a great niche for me. And it has been,” he said of rebounding. “And it’s great to be among those other players to have done that.”

Coach Frank Vogel isn’t to blame for the Lakers’ disjointed roster and disinterested defense, but he’ll take the fall unless they turn it around quickly.

Reaves returns

Even though he returned from a hamstring injury a couple of weeks ago, rookie guard Austin Reaves hadn’t fully been reintegrated into the role he’d carved out this season.

Yet thanks to a loss at Memphis, Frank Vogel was eager to see if Reaves was ready to regain his footing, and the young player rewarded his coach with 13 points and aplus/minus rating of 17.

“He was spectacular tonight. He had some really positive stretches early in the season before he got injured with the hamstring and since he’s come back, we’ve been looking for opportunities to get him back in the fold,” Vogel said Friday. “And he’s looked like he’s still a player coming back from injury, in his first couple games back. Until tonight. I think tonight was what you see with what he’s capable of and what he does on both sides of the ball. And that’s the performance I was looking for from him to have confidence that he’s back from his injury and to continue to give him a bigger role.”

UP NEXT

VS. ORLANDO

When: 6:30 p.m., Sunday

On the air: TV: Spectrum SportsNet; Radio: 710, 1330

Update: The Magic are coming off a tight loss to the Clippers on Saturday afternoon, meaning the Lakers will get the added advantage of the lasting effects a Saturday night in this city can provide a visiting team. The Lakers shouldn’t need the help, though. Orlando is the worst defensive team in the NBA and the third-worst offensive team. Cole Anthony leads a backcourt with some scoring punch, but even with Anthony Davis questionable because of a sore knee, the Lakers should be in good shape on their home court.


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