Clippers head into free agency with Jordan as question mark
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson were introduced in Los Angeles on Monday as the newest Clippers guards. The duo, selected in the NBA draft last week, won't be under the bright spotlight just yet.
That's reserved for center DeAndre Jordan.
This is the final week before the NBA's free agency period begins Sunday, and the biggest question mark for the Clippers is whether center Jordan will opt in or out of his contract.
"I talk to him," coach Doc Rivers said. "We pretty much stay away from the subject for the most part. But I talk to him. We stay in touch."
Lawrence Frank, executive vice president of basketball operations, wasn't sure what Jordan would decide about his $24.1 million player option.
"No new updates. We continue to have dialogue with his agent, Jeff Schwartz," Frank said. "We'll see how everything plays out."
Guard Milos Teodosic has exercised his $6.3 million option with the Clippers. Frank visited him in Belgrade, Serbia, last month.
"We'll see how everything plays out, but he's in a really good space," Frank said.
Last week, guard Austin Rivers exercised his $12.6 million option.
The Clippers have an abundance of guards, but it's not expected that all will be with the team when the season starts.
Observers may have viewed the Clippers' use of both first-round picks on guards as confirmation that Jordan will opt in, but the team did not see it that way.
"That's a lot of speculation," Rivers said.
Nothing is official, and Jordan will need to decide by week's end.
"The No. 1 thing is we draft the best available players," Frank said. "We don't draft for need. That's first. It's important to start with that. Then, very early in the process, we identified Shai and Jerome as top targets. When you go through the entire process and get an opportunity to sit with them, have meals with them, get them to work out, watch film and their games, it was clear we went into the draft week knowing these are our top two guys and how will we get them."
If the Clippers don't make any big moves in free agency, the question remains whether this can be a playoff team again. Last year, the injury-riddled Clippers missed the postseason. They finished with a winning record of 42-40, but their streak of consecutive postseason appearances ended at six.
"You're constantly, always looking at ways to improve the roster," Frank said. "I think we're going to be very competitive. I think we'll bring a very exciting brand of basketball. Obviously, this past year we had an unlucky hand with injuries. But every team has injuries, we just had probably a bigger share. Hopefully, guys like Pat (Beverley) and Galo (Danilo Gallinari) can play the amount of games they're normally used to playing. We've improved ourselves not just with the acquisitions but also with the health.
"We'll see with free agency, there will be different ways we can improve the roster."