After Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan scored 14 points, grabbed 20 rebounds and blocked five Pelican shots in a win over New Orleans last month, I asked Clippers coach Doc Rivers if DJ’s game and role is similar to that of Boston Celtic great Bill Russell whose hall-of-fame career average was 15 points, 22 rebounds, nine blocked shots and four assists per game.
After all, Jordan wears number six, sports a goatee as did Russell and stands 6’11” while Russell was about 6’10”……the resemblance – in both appearance and style of play – to me is uncanny.
Rivers’ response, “You said that I didn’t. But yes that’s what he (DJ) can do. Russell won all those titles because of his defensive intensity, rebounding and his smarts on defense as well.”
That’s what Rivers wants Jordan to do. His role is to defend, block shots and rebound. If he scores some points – and he will, that’s icing on the cake.
“Anything he asks me to do,” said Jordan of Rivers “I’m going to work my butt off to make it happen.”
Rivers also told me that Russell was the first big man he knows of to talk on defense and direct traffic for the rest of his teammates. It used to be point guards did all the talking on both sides of the ball until Russell vocally changed things on the defensive end.
“DJ does a phenomenal job of that as well.” Boasted Rivers of Jordan’s defensive vocalization.
“I feel like I’m a lot more vocal. Whether it’s being serious or joking around.” Jordan said of his vocalization. He continued, “I feel like I’m a vocal leader on our team.”
He certainly is.
In Wednesday’s loss at Charlotte to the Bobcats Jordan’s line read four points, 20 rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots in 32 minutes.
In Monday’s win over the Pistons in Detroit DJ tallied 16 points (most scored on a variety of high-percentage dunks), 21 rebounds and four blocked shots.
For the season Jordan is averaging 10 points, 14 rebounds and three blocked shots per game.
Now those numbers pale in comparison to those of Russell’s career-average. And I’m certainly not suggesting Jordan is Russell’s equal by any means.
But based on his appearance and what Rivers wants out of him, Jordan has studied Russell’s game and understands that’s how he will help the Clippers get to where they want to be.
As far as free-throw shooting goes, expect more of those “hack-a-Jordan” tactics by teams in the fourth quarter of most games. Jordan’s shooting percentage from the charity strip hovers – if you can call it hovering – around the 40% mark. That kept him out of games late in the fourth quarter last year under former coach Vinny del Negro.
Rivers keeps Jordan in tight games until the final horn because he’s needed for his defense and rebounding which can change the course of a game more than free-throws.
Oh. In case you were wondering……Russell’s career average at the charity stripe was just 56%.
A tad better than Jordan’s but free-throw shooting isn’t what made Russell and it certainly won’t define Jordan’s career when it’s all said and done.
To see my video feature filed after the win over New Orleans last month where Jordan had his monster 14 point, 20 rebound game click on the video with this story.
Blake Griffin was selected a s a starter for next month’s NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans. It’s his fourth all-star game appearance and third as a starter. Point guard Chris Paul - who's nursing a separated right shoulder - was beat out as a starter by Golden State's Steph Curry. Paul will most likely be selected as a reserve by coaches. The 63rd All-Star Game is Sunday, February 16th.
Earlier in the week, Griffin and Paul were chosen as part of a pool of 24 players for Team USA to compete in this year’s World Championships and the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
Clippers continue their Grammy Road Trip Friday in Chicago to take on the Bulls.