DeAndre Jordan Driven By Russell Comparison

VIDEO: DeAndre Jordan gets busy on the boards against the Sixers

Before the leprechaun could land on his shoulder and deliver a dinky pipe to the cornea followed by a swift kick to the pot ‘o gold, Doc Rivers said it again.

“I genuinely see traits of Bill Russell,” the Clippers coach stated without hesitation or deep, deep regret.

In DeAndre Jordan. Rivers sees traits of Bill Russell in DeAndre Jordan.

Rivers – the former Celtics coach, the man who said Boston is the place that made him – has made the comparison before, only now Jordan is first in the league in rebounding and fourth in blocks, with first in shooting percentage tossed in for good measure, so who cares if it’s heresy.

Like the Clippers are sweating if Doc will be asked to turn in his Celtics card. All they know is that Jordan is motivated, by the presence of Rivers in general and specifically because of the statement, and playing at a much higher level than when he was getting routinely benched in the fourth quarter in 2012-13 by Rivers predecessor Vinny Del Negro.

Jordan was a longshot all along for the All-Star game this weekend, but could end up leading the league in three categories when anything close to that finish puts him in the preseason mix for the 2015 showcase and Defensive Player of the Year. He will have done it, but Rivers will have made it happen.

“Listen, it’s nice to be compared to Bill Russell,” Rivers said. “I don’t see a negative in that.”

Of course not. There are no negatives to be compared to the definition of winning and the epitome of a center who casts a defensive shadow that can blot out the sun.

It’s insane, though.

“I don’t know why,” Rivers said. “Why can’t you want to be the best? I don’t see why it’s insane.

“I genuinely see traits of Bill Russell. I didn’t say he was Bill Russell. I just think that’s a good thing. What do you see? You see block shots, he’s the (leading) rebounder in the league, he’s blocking everything that comes his way and he changes shots. That’s what Bill Russell does. So that’s been a good thing.”

But… but… but… Bill Russell!

“Again, I think it’s a good thing to say,” Rivers said. “The guys you talk to, they’ll say that and say, ‘Yeah.’ But there’s a lot of guys that have had the potential. There’s a lot of guys that have had the potential to be Kobe or Michael. And DJ’s following through. He’s really focused on that end and he really believes that that’s his impact. And it really has been. He’s been great.”

He’s been blown away.

“I can only laugh and wish I could kind of carry that guy’s jock strap,” Jordan said. “To be compared with somebody like that, even if Doc’s just joking, I take it to heart because I want to be the best defensive player and the best rebounder and the best chief out there on the floor I can be. I know that Doc instilled that in me.”

Rivers is not joking on this account. More importantly, Jordan knows it.

He met Russell once. Sort of. It was in 2008 at rookie orientation, an annual seminar the NBA holds to help new players transition to the league, often with advice from former standouts. The 11-time champion, five-time MVP, 12-time All-Star was there. They got within conversation distance.

“It was kind of like ‘Aaaaahhhh, I don’t know what to say,’ ” Jordan recalled. “And I just kind of walked away.”

With what Rivers has quickly come to mean to Jordan and understanding what the Celtics mean to the coach, Jordan is humbled. That’s been one reaction. Another is that the comparison motivated him to watch Russell in action more intently than before, leading to another possible impact for the Clippers. Where he once tried to swat shots to the rafters in a statement for opponents, Jordan learned from the old movies that controlling the rejection or directing the ball to a teammate is the better play and more hurtful to the other team. He has specifically been working on that move while already totaling 16 more blocks in 1,937 minutes and 54 games than last season in 2,010 minutes and 82 games.


  1. Flex says:

    Doc Rivers is a great Coach, DJ used to get benched every 4rth q, doesn’t seem that anyone read that…Seriously the poor guy wasn’t even given a chance to grow or develop in tough situations. Now Rivers comes in and gives the young man a reason, trust, and the “true potential talk” You know what this man doesn’t have the name “Doc” for no reason. for anyone that knows anything about the human psyche, what Doc is doing is amazing for motivation and is taking dormant talent and waking it up with positive reinforcement…He never said he is BR, or plays like BR, he said he has displayed some of his traits/abilities. Sorry that you’re hurt that no one has taken the time to tell you something nice about yourself…You know what Doc, you’re alright, and you my friend display traits of Phil Jackson…

  2. Rickson says:

    i think he is top 3 tough center position in the league right now

    • Dale Corey says:

      He’s playing better, but he’s not a top 3 center. He’s not better than Hibbert, M.Gasol, Howard, Noah or even an older Duncan. Still you’re entitled to your opinion.

  3. relaxes people doc rivers is just trying to motivate dj,

  4. MrBasketball says:

    First of all TroyBoy, the coaches should study Kobe videos if they want to learn how to defend him. MJ was better then Kobe. you look at his foot work – though he was an inch shorter – he was still able to get off his shots easier than Kobe. Kobe does a lot of crazy moves to get off his mid-range jumper. MJ had a patented fade away that was unstoppable. MJ was just better

    The Russel comparison is fine Doc is motivating Jordan. also there are some similarities physical and otherwise between the two of them. Russel, my favorite player of all time – was just smarter – also spent 4 yrs in school – so he learned to play as opposed to Jordan and most of the other big men in the league who are so raw.

    With respect to players of past eras – I have no doubt that the players of past eras would dominate today’s players. why, because they were more skilled and had a better understanding of the game. they were also better shooters. do we have a power forward in the game who can consistently make a mid-range of elbow jumper. Good heavens – there has been so much emphasis made on dunking and other highlight plays that players are not focusing on the finer aspects of learning the game and improving their skill. Watch any of the old NBA games from the 70s, 80s or even 90s to see what i mean. Michael Jordan was one of the most fundamentally sound players of his time. And he was also a great defender – played both ends of the court at all times.

    Simply put, if the players of yesterday had access to all the technology and training techniques as they did today – they would dominate. What Tim Duncan does was common place in the NBA in the 70s, 80 and 90s. Mourning, Ewing, Robinson (Admiral), The Dream, O’neal, motumbo, rick smiths, brad daughtry, eldin campbell, vlade divac, chris webber, Malone, Barkley, oakley, Horace Grant, Rodman, laimbeer, Salley, teh Davis Brothers, the guys from the traiblazersand the list goes on. all of these guys – some of whom were not event stars in their day would have a field day in today’s game

    • Bball7 says:

      Um do you watch basketball? Hello? First of all Bill Russell was 6′ 9″ at best, second of all um David West has an extremely smooth jumper as does LMA and also Kevin Love who shoots threes consistently how about Ibaka with that improving mid range, Chris Bosh. I know the past was good but big men now are the shooters

    • Jack says:

      Wow, and u call yourself Mrbasketball, u are nuts! The game has evolved to the point where todays players are only focused on scoring the ball yesterdays players would get run out the arena or dunk on because this is where we are today. Some of the players, not all, you’ve mention were outstanding players but u are a fool to think if we took the best players today and matched up against the best of the sixtys and seventies the old boys would win, first of all you cannot place MJ, Magic, Bird, Parrish, Mchale, The dream, Barkley, Malone or any from that era with the older group they belong in the modern era. Also, to further illitrate u know very little about the game, have u seen that kid in Portland that plays power forward, or Zebo in memphis hell, Blake Griffin can now consistantly make shots at the elbow as well as Lebron James if that’s what he is as well as david West, and Lee in Golden State ok, I’m getting tired because I can add a few more but its apparent u have no idea what you are talking about but that u do have a fancy for old timers and it surprises me you didn’t include Oscar Robertson or Elgin Baylor. Does Kobe get a mention we know he can’t shoot worth a damn, nor can Durant.

  5. Brain32 says:

    I said it last year on this site, DeAndre will be an ALL-STAR and he will, guys that never played don’t understand the game properly and just can’t see it…

  6. TROYBOY says:

    Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant’s games are almost identical. I think a lot of coaches and players study the Jordan videos to try to get some tips of how to play Kobe.

    I’ve never liked the fact that people (including myself sometimes) compare eras. Players now are a lot more athletic and have all the tools that they need to develop from such an early stage of their lives. Technology has changed sports in general. I don’t think Video Coordinators existed when Russel played.

    I understand what Doc Rivers is doing and there is a reason why he’s a coach at the highest level. Finding different ways to motivate players is a skillset as a coach. He has the credibility to do that because he has won in the highest level. I don’t have a problem with the comparison because Russel was ahead of his time. I’m pretty sure everyone would agree that Russel would have not score a 100 points in today’s game.

  7. Alex says:

    Hmm… Only because both are black guys and because they tower most people around them? I like DJ, but he ain’t even close to Mr. Russell. He ain’t even a good center, but I like his hops and dunking skills. But that is too little to be really good at his position.

  8. Read Carefully says:

    “I genuinely see traits of Bill Russell,”

    He sees TRAITS of Bill Russell, not a clone of Bill Russell.

    No one said Jordan is the same package as Russell, just that he has some traits of the awesome package that Russell had.

    Ok? You can stop getting angry over nothing now.

  9. Celtics Fan says:

    Deandre Jordan is like Blake Griffin during his first 2 years: can only do dunks, not a low post threat, or even a midrange jumpshooting ability.

  10. Simmonds says:

    Not sure why everyone is overreacting – Jordan’s having a pretty decent season in regards to leading the league in rebounds and a top 5 shot blocker…his game is developing (bar FT’s) and Doc’s just trying to keep him pumped – if he steadily improves he has every chance of being a great center! Gees….

    The Rivers philosophy needs time to settle in, and when it does, the Clippers could be a very dangerous team.

  11. Concise Man says:

    I will only point a few things:

    1) Doc River’s date of birth: October, 13th, 1961
    2) Bill Russell’s last game: May, 5th, 1969
    3) Difference between the dates above: 7 years and 204 days

  12. mostvaluablecommentofalltime says:

    deandre jordan talks a lot during the game, in a good way.he is a good talker, not a dumb egocentric teenager like 80% of the nba players. could be a coach one day, pedagogic guy.
    now for te bill russel, thing, c’mon man. don’t push it seriously, i’m tired of this automatic hype for big markets. he is FAR from bill russell, FAR from beeing a dominant C in the league, don’t disrespect the legends, and don’t disrespect the actual players. let them do their thing.
    Doc you encourage your players, i understand that, but seriously man.

  13. okc2014 says:

    Isn’t Jordan a regular on Shacktin a Fool? Just askin….

  14. dreadyjun says:


  15. Eaglos says:

    DeAndre is fun to watch, he gives good highlights and would make an all time
    favourite in arcade games like NBA Jam. Other than that he is a horrible shooter
    and it will start to show once his athleticism starts to decline n a few years.

  16. RyanKoKlick says:

    Man people are so lame he said TRAITS that are alike never said they were the same….. An for u people who say hes not doin this that the team isnt doin this that let me see hum Can u do what he does how u goin to say his game isnt that good when none of you fans couldnt even make it on a basketball team on the local ball courts LMAO but yea u guys no what ur talkin bout haha

  17. Paul says:

    I would say, Clippers: go find Russell and ask him to be the personal coach of Jordan!

  18. Edzequiel says:

    DJ is our guy just like BG they’re can’t be seperated!

  19. Nicholas says:

    So… that’s what Doc said to DeAndre to light his fire! No wonder he looks more focused & plays with more purpose these days.

    That’s what good coaching is all about.

  20. allaroundballer says:

    Rebound isn’t only about jumping high, you’ve got to protect your space, fight on the ground, boxing out. That’s why gasol n randolph won last year. I hope DJ (n griffin) learn from that

  21. Jordan has done better this year then last year

  22. James Wang says:

    I am so impressed and inspired by this article!

    What Doc did to Deandre is kind of like what Jesus did to Peter when Jesus said to Peter: “You will become fisher of men.”

    Deandre will never be the same! I look forward to see how high he will fly!

  23. Common Sense says:

    Jordan has ridiculous upside potential. He’s built like Lebron James in that he doesn’t have the bowed legs like other 7 footers. He’s genuinely athletic and could probably win the dunk contest with his agility. I wouldn’t be shocked if he becomes a hall of fame player for the tail end of his career. Not saying he’ll be a hall of famer, but I bet you the last 7 years of his career will be Hall of Fame level performances, the kid is skilled and now he’s focused.
    That’s all he needed, a little focus. And now he’s hitting free throws. BAAM!

  24. PrettyBoySwag says:

    Deandre is having a great season. I think he should of been an all star or at least he should have done the dunk contest instead of barnes

  25. Thats just Rivers gimmick so that Jordan will be more MOTIVATED and improve more
    his defense hahaha nice one doc

    uses the name of on the GOAT in centers hahaha

  26. eX says:

    If he played on the 70s he would be a legend , if he played in the 90s , he would be forgotten

  27. Roy says:

    Jesus A, why does everyone have to take everything out of context? He’s just trying to motivate and inspire his player to be better with a compliment. THAT’S WHAT COACHES DO LOL.

  28. A.J. says:

    I hate reading some of Howard-Cooper’s stories, they’re the worst kind of pandering.

  29. lol says:

    Doc rivers apparantly was drunk when he made that statement…redicoulous, Jordan so athletic but yet so bad, Doc u gotta be kidding dude,comparing him to Bill Russel?!?!? omg…

  30. Bill says:

    Obviously comparing Jordan to any truly great center is a joke but comparing him to the center who is widely considered the all-time greatest defensive center (and some – not me- consider a greatest of all-time candidate) is preposterous.

    Jordan is leading the league in rebounds, so give him credit for that. However, the Clips still aren’t a good rebounding team being out rebounded in a clear majority of their games (29 out of 54 total) and in watching their games he fails to box out a lot.

    It is on defense that I really fault him though. Sure, he makes some gaudy blocks from time to time (and he is 4th in he league) but he often looks lost in the team concept and I am not sure I’d call him an average defender at his position and I sure wouldn’t call him great.

    Anyway, reality aside, Doc is just trying to motivate him by giving him something to live up to. Telling a guy he is great and encouraging him to live up to that is normally more effective than beating on him all the time. More leaders/motivators should try it.

    • Dragic says:

      Rebounders who don’t box out dont lead the league in rebounds and defenders who are below average and look lost aren’t fourth in the league in blocks! You’re a bunch of clowns damn give respect where respect is deserved, quit complaining about the comparisons that are used for motivation, and shut up and respect it. Numbers don’t lie and if you’ve recently watched a clippers game you’d see exactly where the comparisons are coming from

    • steagl3 says:

      Technically Jordan wasn’t compared to Russel, Doc just said he “sees traits of Bill Russel” in him. He probably sees traits of Bill Russel in Dwight Howard, too. No one is getting compared to the mighty Russel. He’s just giving Jordan some positive reinforcement and motivation to make him a better player. Which is perfectly good coaching in my book.

    • LakersWillWin says:

      Jordan deserves most improved player of the year recognition. Doc has really lit a fire under Jordan. I always thought there was so much wasted talent, and he was extremely over-rated. Him and Griffin both are becoming really solid players, and they have both proven me wrong this year. Glad they are finally living up to the hype. As the playoffs creep, Clips may start making a little more noise than we expected… Very formidable line up, but OKC is going to be a solid challenge. Western Conference is going to be exciting come playoffs!