Should Los Angeles Clippers Be Worried About Losing DeAndre Jordan?

It’s natural to view Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan as a somewhat dispensable third wheel to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. When you play with two of the best talents in the league, that will happen.

It might even be easy to think that because Jordan isn’t particularly skilled, he could be replaced rather easily.

That’s a dangerous line of thinking, though.

Over the course of last season, Jordan proved that he’s critical to the Clippers’ title hopes as the team’s lone defensive anchor. Once he was finally trusted with consistent minutes and given a clear role, Jordan blossomed throughout the season and became the type of player people always thought he could be.

Here’s what Clippers head coach Doc Rivers told Chris Palmer about Jordan for Bleacher Report:

‘Very few players are willing to accept a specific role like his,’ says Rivers. ‘But early on he realized this defensive and rebounding thing is not bad.’

(…)

‘DJ gives us cohesion,’ says Rivers. ‘He helps create an environment that puts everyone at ease. He’s really good at that, and it’s why our guys get along so well.’

The Clippers could still be a good team without Jordan. Paul and Griffin seemingly guarantee a top-5 offense every single year just on their own. At least on the surface, they might not need Jordan.

But without their big man in the middle, the Clippers would be gutless and maybe a little lifeless. Driving lanes would go uninterrupted, and a dunk or block from Jordan is sometimes worth more than two points, even though technically it’s not. 

Here’s Zach Harper at CBS Sports:

After one season under Doc Rivers, Jordan flourished on the defensive end of the floor. In his first five seasons in the NBA, Jordan was capable of blocking shots, but a lot of them seemed empty. He’d provide the highlight, but it didn’t stop the other team from regularly scoring whether Jordan was on the floor or not. In 2013-14, the Clippers gave up a slightly lower percentage in the restricted area when Jordan was on the floor, but they also gave up 3.0 percent fewer shot attempts in the paint with DeAndre patrolling the key.

His athleticism wasn’t just a highlight factory anymore; he was actually a deterrent at the rim and he got better as the season went along. The Clippers with Jordan on the court after the All-Star break protected the restricted area 4.7 percent better than they had with Jordan on the court prior to the break. Jordan was the leading rebounder in the NBA, had the second most blocks total, and the third highest blocks per game in the league.

Jordan’s improved play and perception brings about another set of problems for the Clippers, even though they’re good ones to have. There’s no doubt that as an unrestricted free agent in the 2015 offseason, Jordan is going to attract some buyers.

Centers always seem to get paid at a premium, and Jordan is unique in that he’ll be hitting unrestricted free agency at the same time he’s hitting his prime as a basketball player. Even though he’s incredibly limited as a scorer and free-throw shooter, Jordan is a player who knows what he is and what he’s supposed to do.

His rare combination of size and athleticism would attract teams on its own, but now with a year of production and the backing of a championship-winning coach like Rivers, teams with a need in the middle will undoubtedly look at Jordan as a way to take care of the defensive side of the floor and the glass.

Here’s Michael Pina of Bleacher Report:

At least one of the NBA’s 30 teams (including the Clippers) will most likely lob a maximum contract in his direction. Wondering whether the flawed but effective big man will receive a huge offer is a waste of time. Jordan is a clear-cut starter with playoff experience and Defensive Player of the Year potential. He’ll finish the 2014-15 season with seven years of experience under his belt, and he will still be three years away from his 30th birthday.

Despite heavy odds against him ever making a single All-Star game throughout his entire career (and not being one of the three most valuable players on his own team last season, depending on where you stand with 2014 Sixth Man of the Year winner Jamal Crawford), cap space will be aplenty for several franchises that view him as a significant draw at a decisive position.

He’ll get paid. The more important question worth asking, then, is: Does he deserve it?

There may be some hesitancy when it comes to paying Jordan a max deal, but the Clippers should hope that they have enough in place to convince Jordan to take a little less. That’s where he’s spent his entire career, after all, and it’s a new day with owner Steve Ballmer taking over for Donald Sterling.

You would think that Jordan will want to stay in Los Angeles, anyway. Rivers is the first coach that has really fully trusted him, and by all means he’s a guy players love to play for. Jordan has also maintained a close relationship with Griffin throughout the years, which should certainly be a pull.

While the Clippers should be worried about what the market dictates as Jordan’s price, they shouldn’t be too concerned that Jordan will bolt to a different situation so long as the money is equal. In Paul, Jordan has the league’s best point guard and distributor, and attaching yourself next to Griffin for the future is a pretty strong idea. Also, Los Angeles isn’t exactly a bad place to call home.

If money is the only real incentive to leave, the Clippers should try to lock in on an extension before Jordan gets to the open market. There’s a pretty good chance he only increases his stock even more with another season under Rivers, so now might be the best time for the Clippers to negotiate.

Ultimately, if push comes to shove, the Clippers can either go into the luxury tax or make salary sacrifices elsewhere, like letting go of Jamal Crawford’s partially guaranteed deal or finding a way to dump Jared Dudley or J.J. Redick. 

While Jordan is a lock to make more than the $11.4 million he’ll be paid this season going forward, a full max offer may be slightly unrealistic to expect from multiple teams, particularly from ones Jordan would consider leaving the Clippers for.

That’s in large part because the center position could potentially be pretty deep in 2015 free agency. Marc Gasol, Tyson Chandler and Omer Asik are all set to become unrestricted free agents barring extensions. Roy Hibbert, Al Jefferson and Brook Lopez all have player options, and Nikola Vucevic is on tap to be restricted.

That’s seven quality starting centers that could be available aside from Jordan, and so the large pool of players could potentially drive the price down a bit. It seems unlikely that Jordan would garner an offer worth $20 million a year if Asik was available for nearly half of that, for example.

Ultimately, the Clippers should be pressing for an extension before the season, even if Jordan likely stands to gain more by waiting to negotiate until free agency.

There should be some natural concern here, but when you have a great player’s coach, the league’s best point guard, one of the league’s richest owners and the benefits of the city of Los Angeles in your corner, you don’t need to be stricken with fear over losing your team’s longest-tenured player. Those days are pretty much gone for the Clippers.

Basically, it’s not about being able to retain Jordan, it’s about the price point and the potential consequences of having a third massive contract.

Is it worth being a luxury tax team for a few years if you’re contending for a title? Is there a replacement for Jordan readily available who will keep the team financially flexible and in the title hunt? Is it worth it to overpay for an asset to maintain steady forward progress?

These are all questions the Clippers will have to answer, but if I had to guess, Jordan won’t want to leave and will be viewed as indispensable by Doc Rivers. There’s too much mutual incentive present for the two sides not to come to an agreement at some point, whether it be this year or next offseason.

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WATCH: New Clippers owner Steve Ballmer gets wild at intro

It’s a new day in the Los Angeles Clippers franchise. Donald Sterling is out and Steve Ballmer is in as the new owner of the team, and he’s more than excited about it. During Ballmer’s introductory press conference he showed some great passionate energy that provided fans with laughs, smiles, and entertainment. He had the […]

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Steve Ballmer’s wild intro to Clippers fans

His level of hype is one that should be matched by the fans and players.

      
 

 

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Steve Ballmer, Clippers Start Washing Away Stain of Donald Sterling Era

LOS ANGELES — April 29, 2014 feels like a distant memory now for the Los Angeles Clippers and their fans, and not just because that day came four months ago.

That was the day that thousands of Clippers fans shuffled ambivalently through LA Live, past angry protesters and into Staples Center for Game 5 of the team’s first-round playoff series against the Golden State Warriors—their first home game in the aftermath of Donald Sterling’s explosive comments hitting the airwaves and sending shockwaves throughout the world.

Some were dressed in black that day. Others wore shirts denouncing the Clippers’ now-former owner. Everyone had something different to say about Sterling, the team and the NBA‘s response to the controversy.

All of that seemed little more than the remnants of a bygone era on Monday, Aug. 18, 2014. Just about every Clippers fan who streamed out of Staples Center after the team’s Fan Festival on this day had nothing but glowing reviews for the owner.

Not Sterling, of course, but former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

“I thought that Steve Ballmer was just superb and enthusiastic and wonderful,” said Aisha Mori, a Clippers fan since 2004. 

The Clippers themselves, including head coach Doc Rivers, referred to the Sterling debacle that resulted in his long-overdue ouster as “The Clutter” during the proceedings. 

The franchise was nothing if not “cluttered” during the Clippers’ second-round playoff run: cluttered with curious media reporting on a story that touched on a lot more than just sports, with fans, players and staff who weren’t sure how to feel and with controversy unlike any the NBA had yet seen.

That clutter was gone, replaced by a clarity of vision, purpose and passion brought to bear by Ballmer. His romp of high fives and chest bumps through the crowd on the way to the podium couldn’t have been more different than what Clippers fans came to expect from Donald Sterling in his public courtside appearances.

“He’s amazing,” Martin Fuentes, a season ticket holder since 2009, said of Ballmer. “He definitely energizes a crowd, definitely a real fan and [I'm] looking forward to the next season.”

Such words would’ve seemed not only unusual, but downright ludicrous if spoken about a Clippers owner at any point in the past 33 years. Sterling was almost universally reviled by Clipper Nation, forcing fans into an uncomfortable cognitive dissonance in supporting an enterprise that lined his pockets—and will do so even more now, with Ballmer‘s $2 billion payout enriching the Sterling family trust.

In truth, the Clippers might never be truly cleansed of the residue from the Sterling era. Ballmer sees no need to rename this team, despite its long history of losing for a man who’s become persona non grata in America. “The Clippers are the hottest brand in basketball pretty much right now,” Ballmer insisted at a press conference after the event.

The Clippers haven’t exactly untethered themselves from the tainted Sterling name, either. Shelly Sterling, Donald’s estranged wife, squeezed plenty of perks out of the deal she helped usher along, including a pair of courtside seats and the title of “Clippers No. 1 Fan” (h/t ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Arash Markazi):

Shelly Sterling’s reputation, beyond her official fandom, has also been called into question. According to The Los Angeles Times‘ Nathan Fenno, Sterling was party to the housing discrimination for which her husband was taken to court by the Federal Housing Administration in 2009:

In a 2009 deposition, a tenant at one of the Sterling’s apartment buildings in Los Angeles County said that Rochelle Sterling called him a “black m—f—” during a discussion at the building.

Ballmer, though, insisted that Shelly’s role in this process warranted some sort of salvation. “Without her, this deal does not get done,” Ballmer said.

Indeed, it was Shelly’s victory over Donald during a recent probate trial in Los Angeles Superior Court that paved the way for Ballmer to take control of the team.

Even with Shelly’s ongoing involvement, much has changed for the franchise’s identity since those fateful days in late April.

“It’s almost like now they can say it and be proud of it, and I’m happy for them,” Rivers said about those Clippers faithful who were wary of touting their fandom during those troubled times.

To that effect, Clippers fans have nothing to worry about now. Ballmer reiterated that he won’t be moving the team closer to his home in the Pacific Northwest. “Seattle is not where the Clippers are going to play,” he said.

Instead, he hopes to be leading “I love Larry” chants—many of which he led during the Fan Festival—down Figueroa Street. The “Larry” in question is the Larry O’Brien Trophy, which is awarded to the NBA Finals champion every year. 

If there’s any concern about Ballmer, it’s his lack of experience in the basketball world. “Everyone has more experience in what they’re doing than I do in what I’m doing,” Ballmer added.

Then again, he’s not unfamiliar with the NBA as an enterprise, to say the least, not after trying to move the Sacramento Kings to Seattle in 2013.

More importantly, Ballmer seems to have the fire and the drive to cement the Clippers’ burgeoning spot on the basketball map. Time and again, he used the word “hardcore” to describe his approach to his latest enterprise.

“I love basketball,” Ballmer went on. “My passion, in a sense, is for things I get involved with.”

“I won’t be able to watch the Clippers dispassionately because I care. I’m involved.”

Which the Clippers and their fans never could and certainly won’t say now about their former owner…what was his name again?

A distant memory—that’s what.

 

Find me on Twitter for all the latest Clippers news and views!

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Are LA Clippers One Piece Away from True NBA Title Contention?

Let’s get something out of the way.

The Los Angeles Clippers, as currently constructed, are title contenders. 

The Clippers have the league’s best point guard in Chris Paul, one of the most dynamic offensive talents in the league in Blake Griffin, a defensive anchor in DeAndre Jordan and tons of three-point shooting to surround them with.

This was the league’s best offense in terms of efficiency last year, according to Basketball-Reference.com, and the Clips were a solid ninth in defensive efficiency in their first year under head coach Doc Rivers. With natural improvement, the Clippers have the makeup of a team that could absolutely win the title.

Are they the favorites to win their first-ever NBA championship, though?

Probably not.

The road to the Finals is so much easier in the East, and so you’d put LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers ahead of them for that reason. The San Antonio Spurs are the reigning champs and looked unreal last postseason, so they should be considered more of a favorite. The Oklahoma City Thunder ousted the Clippers in the playoffs in six games last year and lost nothing this offseason, so you can put them ahead as well.

Even with that said, the Clippers are certainly right there in the mix with all those teams, and given the nature of the league with injuries, that’s exactly where you need to be.

Because the Clippers aren’t the clear-cut favorite, however, there is room for improvement. The most obvious hole seems to be the small forward position, which is currently manned by Matt Barnes.

In a lot of ways, Barnes is a great fit for the Clippers. He’s a garbage man who fights for loose balls, defends with effort and adds toughness. He’s brilliant off the ball with his cuts, and he’s at least a serviceable perimeter shooter.

At 34 years old, however, Barnes is already starting to lose some of the athleticism that makes him so useful. While he’s a strong defender, it’s not ideal to have him as your lone wing stopper, considering the limitations of both J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford at shooting guard.

After the free-agency addition of Spencer Hawes to occupy the third big man role, it’s easy to see what the next area of improvement should be. 

Here’s Jeff Nisius of Bleacher Report:

Although the Clippers finally were able to address their need for a reserve big man, the small forward position remains a major concern. The team would absolutely benefit from an upgrade at the position, because if the team wants to advance out of the Western Conference they are going to need a long, athletic defender on the perimeter.

The problem is that the team has been unable to find that player in the draft or free agency. The hope last year was for [Reggie] Bullock to develop into a potential perimeter stopper. While that might still be the case, he is more of a guard-forward ‘tweener’ rather than a defensive stopper at small forward.

Rivers could very well make a trade but what assets will he need to part with in order to land an impact defender? Nearly as important; will said player be able to space the floor? Rivers has put an emphasis on spreading the floor. Either way, the team needs an upgrade at small forward and the sooner the better.

Again, the Clippers don’t necessarily “need” one more piece to contend. Upgrading at small forward and moving Barnes to a bench role would certainly seem to improve the odds of winning it all, though, and that’s not lost on Rivers.

Here’s what Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times wrote earlier this offseason: “It’s no secret Rivers wants to upgrade his small forward position and that he has been trying to trade starting small forward Matt Barnes.”

Trading Barnes would deprive the Clippers of their glue guy on the wing, which would be tough to do. Instead, finding a trade for Jared Dudley might make more sense. It would certainly be selling low after Dudley’s poor first season with the Clippers, but the lack of athleticism and mobility he displayed last year isn’t promising for the future.

The hope is that Dudley will be fully healthy and in better condition for the upcoming season and that second-year player Reggie Bullock will be ready to step into a bigger role. A small forward by committee approach could work just fine.

Here’s what Dudley told Arash Markazi of ESPN Los Angeles last year about playing time: “We’re a team that’s deep. We’re a team that can go far and everyone’s just got be ready and wait for your opportunity.”

The same can be said about this year’s team, and maybe a little roster competition will get Dudley going.

Of course, the Clippers might not need to be all that better at the 3 this upcoming season.

Remember, this was the league’s best offense last season, and there’s optimism that the defense will improve in year two under Rivers as well.

With Jordan in a contract year and hitting his prime, the Clippers may be able to take a production hit at small forward and be just fine thanks to his improvements.

Here’s Zach Harper at CBSSports.com with more on Jordan’s impact:

His athleticism wasn’t just a highlight factory anymore; he was actually a deterrent at the rim and he got better as the season went along. The Clippers with Jordan on the court after the All-Star break protected the restricted area 4.7 percent better than they had with Jordan on the court prior to the break. Jordan was the leading rebounder in the NBA, had the second most blocks total, and the third highest blocks per game in the league.

Jordan isn’t one of the best centers in the NBA across the board. He’s not going to be someone you run a lot of post plays for and he’s still a nightmare at the free throw line.

But nobody rebounded like him last season and he’s turned himself into someone who finished third in Defensive Player of the Year voting. Things like that matter, especially in the development of someone who is such a deadly weapon in the pick-and-roll with a point guard like Chris Paul.

It stands to reason that the league’s top offense needs to make defensive improvement its top priority. Barnes may not be a great shooter or offensive player, but he’s a strong on-ball defender and rebounder. You can do much worse.

And that’s ultimately what Rivers and Clippers management has to decide. Is it worth whatever assets the Clippers would have to fork over in a trade (draft picks, young players like Bullock) in order to attempt to upgrade from Barnes defensively?

Unless there’s a player who is clearly superior defensively and is available, the Clippers might be better off giving Bullock and Dudley chances alongside Barnes and hoping that the internal improvement elsewhere picks up any slack.

The Clippers may appear to be one piece away on paper, but there is plenty of room on championship teams for solid role players. So long as Barnes can stave off decline, Dudley can revert to the mean and Bullock can improve, the Clippers should have multiple options to employ at small forward. This is a team that can contend just the way they are.  

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Ballmer’s wild intro to Clippers fans

His level of hype is one that should be matched by the fans and players.

      
 

 

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Steve Ballmer debuts as LA Clippers owner (Yahoo Sports)

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 18: New owner of the Los Angeles Clippers Steve Ballmer reacts to the fans after being introduced for the first time during Los Angeles Clippers Fan Festival at Staples Center on August 18, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Steve Ballmer has introduced himself to Los Angeles Clippers fans at a rally celebrating his new ownership of the NBA team.


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Clippers Owner Steve Ballmer Goes Ape at Fan Festival, Gives Out Email Address

Steve Ballmer absolutely crushed his entrance at the Clippers Fan Festival on Monday afternoon.

The newly minted Los Angeles Clippers owner fired out of the tunnel at the Staples Center to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” punishing hands and working the crowd like a professional hype man.

ESPN’s Arash Markazi and Fox Sports’ Jovan Buha recorded Ballmer’s entrance for posterity and uploaded the footage to Instagram. Imagine Donald Sterling’s court-side manner, but the opposite. 

All reports indicate that the former Microsoft CEO refused to simmer down after grabbing the microphone on the court.

Lofty promises were made.

The phrase “Boom, baby” made an appearance.

The former Microsoft CEO also gave out his email address on the Jumbotron.

I would’ve guessed “BallmIsLife” as his handle, but “SBallmer” works, too. 

In any case, the Steve Ballmer era with the Clippers is off to an emphatic, teeth-grinding start. Ballmer, who picked up the Clippers for an NBA record $2 billion this month, appears ready to set a new tone for his franchise.

I do feel bad for Mr. Ballmer’s assistant, though. Tending that email address just became a full-time job.

 

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Clippers’ Crawford raves about his new boss

Jamal Crawford has known his new boss for years because of their Seattle connection.

      
 

 

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Sterling’s bid to stop Clippers sale rejected

Donald Sterling hasn’t yet announced his surrender, but he’s running out of options.

      
 

 

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