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DeAndre Jordan finally got to play, but is making impact regardless of minutes

DeAndre Jordan is out of the rotation but still has a positive attitude and managed to achieve a milestone this season.
DeAndre Jordan is out of the rotation but still has a positive attitude and managed to achieve a milestone this season.
David Miller

The LA Lakers brought in center DeAndre Jordan to provide a veteran rebounding and defensive presence, as well as a lob threat, even at 33. Los Angeles signed Jordan days after he was traded by the Brooklyn Nets and then bought out by the Detroit Pistons in September.

With the Lakers reacquiring Dwight Howard, the objective was to recapture the effectiveness of a two-headed monster, along with Anthony Davis, as they did in their 2020 championship season (when they paired JaVale McGee and Howard).

At 6-foot-11, 265 pounds, he was expected to be a big body to match Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, Karl-Anthony Towns and other imposing centers in the NBA. Jordan has shown flashes of his prime LA Clippers' “Lob City” years. He is still an above-average athlete for a center and will still rebound and block shots.

Jordan had a particularly memorable dunk against Robin Lopez of the Orlando Magic.

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But those flashes have been few and far between, and he has been something of a disappointment. Jordan is averaging 4.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, the lowest numbers since his first two years in the league, in a career-low 13.2 minutes.

He can be a defensive liability when defending lobs or the pick and roll. Jordan doesn’t possess the lateral quickness defensively, and he is not the rebounding or shot-blocking threat as he once was.

More of a problem is that besides lobs and putbacks, Jordan is not an offensive factor. Plus, he is infamously known for his free-throw problems, although he has been shooting comparatively well this season (59% as opposed to 48% for his career).

In November, coach Frank Vogel said the Lakers would use only one other center, along with Anthony Davis and LeBron James (after a Thanksgiving Eve revelation against the Pacers) at that position.

With Dwight Howard performing effectively in limited minutes in his second stint in Los Angeles (including a recent 14 and 14 game against the Kings), people more or less knew "DeAndre 3000" would be the odd man out.

With James forced to play center full-time recently due to the rash of injuries and COVID protocols, James has played at a historical and MVP level in his 19th season, on both ends of the court.

With LeBron excelling as a center, the Lakers are expected to try to move Jordan and Kent Bazemore (left) for additional roster space.
With LeBron excelling as a center, the Lakers are expected to try to move Jordan and Kent Bazemore (left) for additional roster space.

Heading into Friday’s 134-118 victory over the Atlanta Hawks, James averaged 34.3 points, 9.8 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.4 blocks per game. James is shooting 55%, including 40% from 3-point range.

James has clearly been rejuvenated after missing time with injuries and a one-game suspension for his run-in with Pistons center Isaiah Stewart. At center, he is able to be a free safety on defense and protect the paint.

That is more effective for James at this stage of his career than chasing around athletic wings at small forward. He can also stretch the floor, and few centers can compete with his quickness and athleticism.

Therefore, Vogel again reiterated recently that the two primary centers from here on will be AD, upon his return, and LeBron.

The Lakers are committed to small ball, with 6-foot-3 Malik Monk inserted into the lineup at small forward (and on an offensive tear, averaging over 20 points in his last 7 games), Carmelo Anthony playing minutes at the 5 and Trevor Ariza backing up at power forward.

Couple that with the addition of defensive stalwart Stanley Johnson, who will likely eventually be signed for the rest of the season, Jordan’s spot on the bench has been cemented.

Jordan has only gotten minutes in recent times due to injuries and protocols, and has not really stood out in any game. Despite being among the healthiest Lakers, Jordan has 12 DNP-CDs (did not play-coach’s decision) this season, including seven straight after the Hawks game.

However, Jordan may have made a case for himself to be used, at least situationally. His DNP streak snapped when the Lakers were getting shellacked by the young, brash and talented Memphis Grizzlies, down by 29 points at one point.

In what seemed to be garbage time, he was inserted into the game. With a lineup of veterans DJ, Trevor Ariza, Kent Bazemore and Wayne Ellington and rookie Austin Reaves, the Lakers roared back on a 21-0 run and made it a seven-point game with 1:19 to go.

The Grizzlies ultimately won 127-119, but Ja Morant and the starters were forced to re-enter the game. Jordan played eight minutes, and had three rebounds, one block and was a plus-19.

Jordan finally got to play against the Grizzlies, and was a plus-19.
Jordan finally got to play against the Grizzlies, and was a plus-19.

Despite having an uneven, underwhelming season, Jordan still managed a milestone. In a Dec. 10 victory over the OKC Thunder, Jordan joined the 10,000-rebound club, finishing with 10,002 after grabbing four in the game. That total places him 41st all time in NBA history.

It was an impressive feat for a former second-round pick who left Texas A&M after his sophomore season. Jordan wasn’t aware of the accomplishment until after the game. He also said rebounding was a commitment he made after tough, physical battles against the Memphis Grizzlies in the early 2010s.

With limited funds, assets and roster space, the Lakers are expected to try to move Jordan and swingman Kent Bazemore, a fellow early-season starter who has been benched completely.

Nevertheless, DJ has been loved by teammates throughout his career, and the Lakers are no different. He has handled his demotion with class. He says he will stay ready when called upon and will always cheer and encourage his teammates.

His positive attitude has been evident, as Jordan has regularly been one of the most vocal and animated supporters on the bench. DJ has been a source of positivity in an underwhelming and disappointing Lakers season.

Edited by Joseph Schiefelbein

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