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2016 Los Angeles Clippers Gameday 1

A fter three days of practice, assistant coach Jim Boeheim already thinks he’s looking at the best defensive center he’s ever had on Team USA. The Syracuse head coach and longtime USA assistant, who was part of the coaching staff that won gold medals in 2008 and 2012, felt certain despite not having seen DeAndre Jordan play in an actual Olympic game at the time. “I love him,” Boeheim said. “He’s about the hardest working big guy I’ve seen…He just goes after everything.” Boeheim said Jordan’s always engaged and moving. There’s no down time. He doesn’t take a play off. Any coach would take those traits. For years, however, most coaches never saw the traits. Or, rather, they only saw them sparingly. “I had to fight through a lot of things since I’ve been drafted, a lot of ups and downs in my career,” Jordan said. When people discussed Jordan for most of his career, they talked about potential almost exclusively. That’s part of the dilemma for a second-round pick who only made 13 starts his rookie year and 12 his second year. It’s almost as if his first five or so years in the league were a scouting report. He had the pieces to thrive, but never received much credit for actually arriving as a star player in the NBA. Until now. “I’m starting to see the light a little bit,” Jordan said. “It’s a great feeling.” The recognition picked up last summer with his first All-Defensive First Team and All-NBA Third Team honors. He was coming off his second straight season leading the league in rebounding and third straight season leading the league in field goal percentage. The respect began to follow for reasons beyond the dunks and highlight fodder everyone already knew Jordan could provide. As he’d done each year in the NBA, in 2015-16, Jordan wrapped up an eighth straight season with more points than the year prior. Last season marked his third straight year averaging a double-double and his second straight year shooting at least 70 percent from the floor, a feat never before accomplished in NBA history. And, in a league where many say the center position’s value is diminished, people noticed more and more. First came a second straight First Team All-Defense honor. Then came arguably the most tremendous honor of Jordan’s career, one that immediately struck him, as days later he was named to the All-NBA First Team for the first time in his career. “That was huge, man,” Jordan said. “First Team All-Defense, that was great, that was one of my goals coming into this league, and I’ve gotten that a couple times. But First Team All-NBA, that’s bigger than a lot of things; that’s bigger than being an All-Star.” GOOD AS GOLD WHAT AN OLYMPIC SUMMER MEANT TO ALL-NBA CENTER DEANDRE JORDAN If that weren’t enough, the summer brought even more acclaim, continuing to serve as Jordan’s universal burst onto the scene, as the Clippers’ center was named one of 12 athletes set to represent the USA in his first Olympic Games – an honor Jordan said surpasses any other in his career. As he yelled out defensive calls to Paul George, snagged entry passes from Kyrie Irving and threw down lobs from Kyle Lowry, Jordan fit right in as one of 12 players representing Team USA - alongside Lowry, Irving, Draymond Green, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, DeMar DeRozan and Harrison Barnes – and couldn’t help but grin as he thought about how far he’s come. Here was a second-round pick few believed in when he came out of school eight years ago, standing in one of the most exclusive groups an NBA player can hope to be a part of. He seized the opportunity head coach Doc Rivers gave him a few years ago, then developed into one of the NBA’s premier centers. It’s impossible for Jordan not to feel, in some respects, that he’s finally arrived. As he sat next to his Olympic teammates before practice, he thought back to the draft, watching 34 picks go before him. He thought back to his rookie year, averaging 14.5 minutes per game, and his next year, averaging 16.2. He thought back to the All-Star Games he was never a part of, and how far he needed to go to be sitting where he was inside the Mendenhall Center at UNLV, preparing to represent his country. “I kept fighting,” Jordan said. “And I had a lot of good people around me.” Those good people off the court helped get him surrounded by the superstars on it with his Team USA teammates, many of whom were mesmerized by how much Jordan does on the court. Jordan’s the only Team USA member not to be selected to an All-Star Game, yet his All-Star teammates were the ones enthralled by him. “He’s a freak of an athlete, man,” Anthony said. “That guy is 7-foot something, can jump out the gym, most athletic person in the NBA. I mean, just his presence on the court, you don’t see that often. He’s a one of a kind specimen.” Lowry said he’s in amazement watching what Jordan can do on both sides of the court, adding how much fun it is to be able to lob a ball at the rim and watch Jordan go get it. More than any of the athletic displays, though, Jordan’s USA teammates are realizing how much more there is to his game than meets the eye. “He’s like a point guard,” said Kevin Durant, one of Jordan’s best friends 61 | CLIPPERS GAMETIME MAGAZINE BY ROWAN KAVNER


2016 Los Angeles Clippers Gameday 1
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