Doc Rivers: ‘Re-signing DeAndre Jordan a top priority’


With the playoffs officially a thing of the past, the Los Angeles Clippers — or at least the front office — have a new task ahead: retaining the services of soon-to-be free agent center DeAndre Jordan, something head coach Doc Rivers calls a top priority heading into the off-season.

Proving to be one of the league’s best young centers in a contract year, Jordan’s value increased tenfold by having his best season as a pro, averaging a career-high in points (11.5), field-goal percentage (.710 — second highest all time behind Wilt Chamberlain), rebounds (15.0), and steals (1.0).

And because of a career-best season, Jordan will be handsomely rewarded for his work. With the salary cap expected to take another leap, Jordan could earn close to $108 million if the Clippers sign him to a five-year max contract, an advantage they have over free agent suitors.

Per several NBA sources, including ESPN’s Marc Stein and Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the biggest threat to steal Jordan away from the Clippers at the moments seems to be the Dallas Mavericks as Jordan was raised in Texas and Mark Cuban will have ample cap space as Tyson Chandler enters free agency. Outside of Dallas, the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, and Boston Celtics could also enter the DeAndre Jordan race depending on how the lottery balls fall Tuesday — the best-case scenario for the Clippers to minimize DAJ suitors is for one of Karl Anthony-Towns, Jahlil Okafor, and Willie Cauley-Stein falling to one of LA, NY, and BOS in the 2015 NBA Draft, taking the three teams out of the market for a center. Portland could also input themselves in the race (DAJ was drafted under current Blazers GM Neil Olshey) if LaMarcus Aldridge leaves this summer.

May 17, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (6) looks up during the fourth quarter against the Houston Rockets in game seven of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. The Rockets defeated the Clippers 113-100 to win the series 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Given the circumstances of Jordan’s free agency, if the big man makes the decision to go elsewhere this summer, it’ll be not because of what the Clippers couldn’t do — Jordan returning gives the Paul-Griffin-Jordan trio another shot at winning a championship — but what Jordan wants a player entering the prime of his basketball career.

If Jordan wants to be feature elsewhere and out of the shadows of Paul and Griffin, he has the liberty to do so, unlike his restricted free agency in 2010 where the Clippers were able to match the max contract offered by the Golden State Warriors.

If Jordan sees a hometown venture to Dallas as a chance to grow closer to a NBA championship, playing alongside Dirk Nowitzki and under Rick Carlisle, he has the liberty to do so.

If Jordan sees himself as the missing piece to a budding rebuild alongside Kobe Bryant in LA, Carmelo Anthony and Phil Jackson in New York, or Danny Ainge and Brad Stevans in Boston, he has the liberty to do so.

What does Jordan have to say on the matter? As much as he did in the middle of the season when asked of his upcoming free agency: very little.

“I’ve been here for seven years so this is what I’m used to,” Jordan said after the heartbreaking Game 7 loss. “But I’m not thinking about that, man. It’s still so fresh. It’s tough.”

Until Jordan makes his decision, all things pertaining to the Clippers’ free agency outside of vet minimum or mini-mid level deals will be put on hold because if Jordan doesn’t return, it could be a long summer for Doc Rivers‘ troops.

“We have to get this team more support,” said Doc Rivers when asked how the team could seek improvement in the immediate future. “With the contracts we’re hamstrung with, it’s going to be minimum deals for the most part. There are no big deals out there that we’re going to make, most likely.”

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