Free-agent profile: DeAndre Jordan
DeAndre Jordan, Clippers center
Type of free agent: Restricted
Positives: With freakish athleticism, Jordan would provide the speed the Lakers sorely lack. At 23 years old, he could provide the youthful energy the team sorely needs. And with the Lakers lacking much front-line depth outside of their main options in Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, Jordan could provide a dependable option to help lower their minutes and/or step in if one of them gets hurt.
One only has to reflect on the 2010-11 season to know how the lack of a quality backup center hurt the Lakers. When Bynum missed the first 24 games last season while recovering from off-season knee surgery, the Lakers had hoped Theo Ratliff could help. But he lasted no more than eight games before requiring arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. Throwing rookie Derrick Caracter into the mix didn't seem to be a good alternative because even he admitted that he wasn't prepared in taking on a heavier workload. So most of the minutes went to Gasol, eventually resulting in him fading due to fatigue. It was an ailment he never quite recovered from despite staying away from basketball for most of the summer.
When Jordan was with the Clippers last season, the third-year, 6-foot-11 center seamlessly filled in for Chris Kaman during the latter's three- week absence after spraining his right ankle Nov. 9 at New Orleans. In one three-game sequence, Jordan had a total of 19 blocks, and he posted a career-high 20 rebounds in one of those games. He complemented Blake Griffin's high-flying dunks with some of his own. And his average of 7.1 points on a team-high and career-high 68.6% shooting, 7.2 rebounds and 1.8 rebounds and starting in 66 of 80 games prompted former Lakers Coach Phil Jackson to suggest that Jordan was a major reason why the Clippers improved.
Negatives: Jordan started only a total of 25 games in his first two seasons with the Clippers and received very little playing time under former Coach Mike Dunleavy and interim coach Kim Hughes for reasons beyond the fact they enjoyed a front-line presence in Kaman and Marcus Camby. The coaches lamented Jordan's failure to get back and hustle on defense and his overall work ethic. He'd have to sharpen those habits considering the Lakers' philosophy will mostly point to defense, and he wouldn't want to get on the bad side of a bunch of veterans, such as Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher.
Verdict: The Clippers extended a qualifying offer to Jordan, making him a restricted free agent. That means Jordan can sign an offer sheet with any team, but the Clippers have the right to a first refusal. It's in the Clippers interest to keep him because of his growing potential and the need to surround Griffin and Eric Gordon with as much talent as possible so they don't lose them. But that shouldn't stop the Lakers from convincing Jordan that living in Los Angeles and playing at Staples Center is a lot better while wearing a purple & gold uniform. Considering Joe Smith remains unsigned with the team and the Lakers currently have a team option on Caracter, making this move would make sense for the Lakers.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Lakers forward Matt Barnes knocks the ball from the grasp of Clippers center DeAndre Jordan at Staples Center. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times / March 25, 2011