DeAndre Jordan doesn’t feel stranded. The scenery around him may have changed, with the Los Angeles Clippers undergoing a more extreme makeover than any other franchise in the past year. He’s seen old teammates flee and a good friend get blindsided six months into a supposed lifetime commitment. But whether the lob passes come from Milos Teodosic, the late-game shots are reserved for Lou Williams or the roles in those insurance commercials have gone to Chris Paul’s new neighbors in Houston, his job remains the same. Jordan’s head isn’t spinning from all of the upheaval, or the fact that he was almost a part of the change at the trade deadline.
“I don’t think anything is too dramatic about it,” Jordan recently told Yahoo Sports about the Clippers’ roster overhaul. “It was a lot going on. But I just tried to keep my head and roll with whatever happened.”
Jordan is the last player standing from the greatest era in Clippers history, which would feel strange if he hadn’t also preceded all of those Blake Griffin in-your-face throw-downs and Paul no-look dimes. Lob City might be resting in peace, but Jordan has already defied the usual expectancy of a Clipper. He has worn the uniform for an unprecedented 10 years, becoming an unlikely mainstay who has outlasted All-Stars and journeymen alike.
“I’m here and that’s what I’m focused on,” Jordan told Yahoo Sports. “I’m excited. Like I told somebody the other day, I hope I can play another 10 years here. That’s what I’m focused on now.”
The Clipper-for-life promises have never been proposed, as they were while persuading Griffin to stay, though Jordan wouldn’t be opposed to an arrangement that ends with him remaining. Jordan just wants to feel wanted. Same as he did when he almost left for Dallas three years ago. Same as he did when Doc Rivers, Griffin, Paul, Paul Pierce and JJ Redick invaded his house to make sure he backed out of that agreement with the Mavericks.
Before he completed that deal, all of those teammates who refused to let him go are gone. “At the end of the day, people do what’s best for themselves and their family,” Jordan told Yahoo Sports. “I’m happy for those guys who chose different paths and teams, and things like that. I can’t be upset with the decisions they make.”
Griffin had no say in where he ended up, with the Clippers shipping him to Detroit in a move that revealed the cold-hearted nature of the business, the fragility of making huge financial investments in injury-prone stars and the challenges of maintaining loyalty in professional sports. “It sucks because we were teammates for nine years, but the organization decided to go in a different direction and do what’s best for the future of the organization. We can only respect that and continue to try to win games,” Jordan told Yahoo Sports about Griffin. “We’re still going to remain friends, I think.”
What lies beyond this season remains speculative because Jordan was unable to reach an agreement on an extension, and the Clippers are attempting to start over without bottoming out. Jordan remains but not from a lack of effort to move him. Cleveland was close to acquiring him at the deadline but opted for a larger, three-team deal with Sacramento and Utah. The Clippers also refused to give him away for nickels on the dollar at the trade deadline.
“My name has been mentioned [in trades] for the past few years. So I’m not really tripping on that,” Jordan told Yahoo Sports. “I really don’t give a [expletive] at this point. I’m just playing, man, staying locked into the game, playing as hard as I can for this organization because I love this team. And I love where we’re at and the group of guys that I’m playing with, so that’s what makes me happy.”
For more than three decades in Southern California, the franchise has mostly been the place where young players hope to make a name for themselves before they eventually get fed up and move on, where older players put their careers out to pasture, or where careers don’t quite pan out at all. Before Jordan, Eric Piatkowski was the only name associated with Clippers longevity. But while Piatkowski managed to play nine seasons with the Clippers without ever reaching the postseason, Jordan has been around to watch the organization build its way up from being a high-flying phenomenon to a fringe contender to changing course all in one year.
Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Udonis Haslem, Nick Collison and Mike Conley are the only active players with longer tenures on the same team than Jordan. Russell Westbrook and Marc Gasol have also spent a decade with their respective organizations. But while his résumé includes first-team All-NBA honors, an All-Star appearance and an Olympic gold medal, Jordan has managed to hold on despite never being the best player on his team.
“I think it is a part of, one, our being loyal to our organizations and, two, the organizations believing in us from the start and throughout the course of our careers,” Jordan told Yahoo Sports about being with one franchise. “I’ve been with the organization for a very long time. It’s been a great time for me and I’ve seen a lot of great players come through here, great teammates I’ve had. A lot of great times I’ve had with this organization and I hope they continue.”
While that may be the case, Jordan does appear to be protecting himself should the organization be thinking otherwise. The Los Angeles Times recently reported that Jordan has listed his Malibu home for $6.5 million. And he has already been linked to Dallas and Houston, should he enter free agency. Though unlikely, Jordan could also opt into the final year of a deal that pays him $24.1 million.
By holding on to Jordan at the deadline, the Clippers chose to continue their postseason chase with the only remaining link from a franchise-record six consecutive playoff appearances. And just making the playoffs would be a significant achievement for a franchise that was in the lottery in all but one of the 13 seasons before Paul arrived from New Orleans.
Rivers’ future with the organization also appears to be uncertain, but he is putting together one of his most remarkable seasons since winning NBA Coach of the Year with Orlando in 2000. He has extracted a borderline All-Star season out of Williams and kept a squad in playoff contention that has had 29 different starting lineups in the first 60 games. The Clippers have overcome lengthy to season-ending injuries — incorporating rookies and other inexperienced talents — and have leaned heavily on the scoring outbursts from the sixth-man extraordinaire. Jordan is also there, doing what he has always done, regardless of the surroundings.
“We’ve got a lot of veteran guys who are professional. Guys who want to see each other succeed and play well. When you’ve got an unselfish locker room like that, and guys who want to step it up when other guys go down, that’s good for our team,” Jordan told Yahoo Sports. “Every team has distractions and ups and downs throughout the course of the season, but like I said, we’ve got a veteran group who has seen a lot of this stuff before. We just want to stay focused and locked in and keep fighting. We just got new guys. That’s really it. We got a lot of new guys.”
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