NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Clippers making efforts on, off court to pump up Jordan — Center DeAndre Jordan is one of the key targets of Chris Paul‘s alley oops in what was formerly known as “Lob City” and was also known for being pulled late in games due to his offensive deficiencies and poor free throw shooting. While the Clippers are still going to go as far as Paul and fellow All-Star Blake Griffin can take them, the Clips want to integrate Jordan into the mix as one of their key players as well. Off the court, they’re featuring him on the cover of this season’s media guide and on it, coach Doc Rivers wants Jordan in the game when it matters most in what are calculated moves by the coach, writes Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times:
Two rare or unprecedented sights to look for during the Clippers’ upcoming season:
DeAndre Jordan’s image on the cover of the team’s media guide with franchise players and acknowledged leaders Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, a statement about what will be expected of the 25-year-old center in his sixth season.
DeAndre Jordan, in person, on the court during the fourth quarter of tight games.
New Coach Doc Rivers’ imprint is on both moves. On the first point, Rivers made it known he wants to promote a “big three” concept rather than focusing on All-Stars Griffin and Paul. On the second point, he believes Jordan is capable of playing during crunch time, even though Jordan was mostly a spectator during that stage last season.
Jordan, who was inconsistent defensively and hit only 38.6% of his free throws last season to rank last among full-time NBA starters, played in all 82 regular-season games but got into the fourth quarter of only 30 of them. He played in two of six fourth quarters in the Clippers’ first-round playoff loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
To Rivers, who replaced Vinny Del Negro this summer, that’s ancient history, not a guideline to future success.
“I wasn’t here last year,” Rivers said Thursday when asked about Jordan’s limited late minutes last season.
Can Jordan be trusted in the fourth quarter?
“Yeah,” Rivers said before the team practiced for its first Staples Center exhibition, on Friday against Portland.
Jordan likes Rivers’ philosophy about not prejudging what he can — or can’t — do.
“Doc is a great coach, and he expects a lot out of me, and I’m definitely going to embrace that challenge,” Jordan said. “He believes in me and that only helps me be more confident and believe in myself.
“It’s a new year, a new start for everybody, and that’s what I’m focused on.”
No. 2: Derrick Rose’s prep coach provides insight on NBA star — Bulls fans everywhere are delighted that Derrick Rose is back on the court and looking pretty much like his old self after missing all of last season while recovering from his torn ACL. Jason Jordan of USA Today catches up with Rose’s high school coach, Robert Smith of Simeon High School, who has great insight into what drove Rose during his rehab work:
JJ: Is it me or does he look faster in these preseason games coming off the ACL tear?
RS: He really does, right! You hit that right on the head. People text me all during his games asking me the same question and I have to agree. That’s hard to believe, but it certainly looks that way. I knew he would come back even better.
JJ: What convinced you that he would come back better?
RS: Because he took his time and he doesn’t like to disappoint people. I think that was the main reason why he didn’t come back early. He just doesn’t like to disappoint anyone. That drives him. His competitive nature would never let him not come back as good or better than he was before. When he opted to stay out I said to myself, “When he gets back it’s gonna be rough on some people.”
JJ: What’s something that people would be shocked to know about Derrick?
RS: Probably that he’s really superstitious. His routine is always the same, he doesn’t change anything. Just things like always being the last one to come out of the locker room and always being the last one to come to the huddle. Different things like that. But he’s serious about that stuff.
No. 3: Day off of practice doesn’t mean rest for Oden — Greg Oden was held out of two days of Heat practice this week due to swelling on his left knee, but that doesn’t mean he’s just hanging around the practice facility doing nothing. The goal for Oden and the team is to keep the big man on a consistent workout plan and keep his spirits up as well, writes Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
“I don’t really take a day off,” Oden said. “For me, it’s maintenance to this knee and maintenance to my body, because some days I’m not able to do the up-and-down stuff that they are able to do. I’ve got to be in the weight room, riding the bike, lifting and doing all the things I can.”
Oden began experiencing the swelling on his left knee after completing his first 5-on-5 workout in more than three years. The Heat decided to hold him out of practice rather than risk further injury. The minor setback for Oden caused little concern considering what he’s been through.
He hasn’t played since Dec. 5, 2000 after suffering a series of career-threatening knee injuries.
“I’m fine,” Oden said. “It’s been 3 1/2 years for me so a little bit of swelling … as long as there’s no surgery, I’m OK. It’s going to be a long season so I’m going to get there. It’s just one day.”
“It’s not really a set formula for that right now,” said Oden when asked when he will take days off. “It just kind of goes how the legs feel. I will see how it reacts after hard days and then we’ll figure it out from there. The more days I can get going hard and the more days we can figure out what works and what doesn’t work.”
Perhaps most impressive is Oden’s ability to remain positive during the process. He is still a few months away from the possibility of playing.
“I’m all right. I’m just icing it down,” Oden said. “It’s a process. I’ve got to figure out the ups and downs, what all I can do, how long I can do it … It wasn’t the first time [the knee swelled]. I was hoping it didn’t but it did. What can I do about it? Now, the next thing to do is get it back down. I’ve definitely got bigger goals. The best thing for me is to take it day by day.”
No. 4: Kidd adjusting to new gig, responsibilities — Last night in Brooklyn was all about Jason Kidd as the former Nets star (and current coach of the team) had his No. 5 jersey lifted to the rafters of the Barclays Center. Before that sentimental moment, Kidd talked with our own David Aldridge about the challenges of his new job — such as learning how to draw up a play quickly — and more in a solid Q&A interview:
ALDRIDGE: When you talked to those guys this summer, did they immediately talk to you as a coach, or did you still think there was a coach-player vibe there?
KIDD: No. I think all the coaches that I ran into this summer have all been great from Doc [Rivers] to Pat Riley, you know, listening to them talk about their story of when they got started It sounded very familiar to mine, and so just listening to them and also asking them questions after the fact of what worked, what didn’t work, and the biggest thing that comes back is be yourself, trust that you know basketball, but trust your gut and always be honest and just communicate, and you’ll be fine.
ALDRIDGE: I’m sure you have a favorite play. I’m sure you’ve got something that over the years you say, “Yeah. I really like that one.”
KIDD: Yeah. There’s some plays that I’m comfortable with drawing, but in the preseason, this is all about being able to give new things to guys and see how they execute, so we can always go during the season to my favorite go-tos, but this is also for us to get better. The train’s moving, so I got to be able to feed guys new stuff and see how they accept it on the fly. Can they execute what we draw up, or can they execute what we talk about? And those are things — as a player, yes, you can do it, but now as a coach, can they — it’s out of your hands, and did you communicate it to them right, or did you leave something out? So those are the things that I’m going through.
ALDRIDGE: How will you critique yourself as a coach?
KIDD: You know, I think trusting myself, being able to take in the information and being able to deliver it. That’s the one thing I will always give myself a grade at the end of the night. There’s a lot of information being thrown my way. How did I process it, and how did I deliver it to the guys?
ALDRIDGE: Yeah. Who do you — I don’t know if “confide in” is the right word — but who will you kind of bounce ideas off of?
KIDD: Everyone. I’ve come with kind of the approach of there’s an open table. You know, come to the table with it, bring it to the board, and let’s discuss it, and then I’ll make a decision do we go with it or not? Maybe we keep it on the board because maybe it’s not the right time for that, but I love more information. The better off I’ll be, but also the team.
ALDRIDGE: Have you actually spent any time with Mikhail Prokhorov yet?
KIDD: Just at the press conference. We spent a little time together. When you talk about an owner who wants to win, well, he’s definitely shown that by putting this team together.
ALDRIDGE: Is that in any way odd to you that haven’t spent much time at all with the person who hired you?
KIDD: He’s always watching, and he’ll give a call once in a while just to check in and see how things are going.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: High-flying Nuggets big man Kenneth Faried has a strained hammy … Thunder rookie big man Steven Adams impresses in OKC’s win against New Orleans … Great story looking at the love-hate relationship Carlos Boozer has with most Bulls fans