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DeAndre Jordan taking on leadership role with Clippers

September 30, 2017 - 12:05am

DeAndre Jordan was halfway through a thoughtful explanation of the previous day’s visit to Pearl Harbor when he was set upon by two mischief-minded teammates.

“You talking about how much you love your rookies, so much?”

Jordan, the Los Angeles Clippers’ most experienced and longest tenured player, gave a knowing sigh at the antics of first-year players Jawun Evans and Sindarius Thornwell during training camp at the Stan Sheriff Center on Oahu.

As Evans and Thornwell crowded on either side of Jordan facing a media scrum, the 6-foot-11 center resembled a parent taking a moment to humor his kids while conducting a conversation with the adults in the room.

“These guys, they’re great, man,” Jordan said. “One and Two, they’ve been awesome and they’re going to be real good for us.”

What are their names?

“One and Two.”

The media laughed. With that, the rookies scampered off through a Sheriff tunnel and Jordan resumed holding court.

Cat in the Hat references aside, Jordan, 29, might need to wear many caps for the Clippers to be successful this season, starting with preseason exhibitions against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday (4 p.m.) and Tuesday (7 p.m.) at the Sheriff Center.

On the subject of player protests of social injustice across sports — a hot topic at camp this week — Jordan reverted to all business. News came down that commissioner Adam Silver expects all players to stand for the national anthem to adhere to league guidelines.

“That’s a league rule?” Jordan responded.

“I haven’t discussed that with any other players and we haven’t discussed it as a team,” he said after a moment’s pause. “Whatever we decide to do, we’re going to do it as a team, regardless of any of that.”

Yes, the nine-year veteran is unquestionably a team leader in the wake of the offseason Chris Paul trade.

Jordan, along with good friend Blake Griffin, feasted on alley-oops from Paul over the last six years in Clipperland. It’s a big part of the reason why he holds the NBA career record for field-goal percentage at .677.

Now, a host of new guards — Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Milos Teodosic — are responsible for feeding him the ball in the paint.

But don’t declare “Lob City” dead just yet.

Thursday, according to the team, was his best offensive day so far in training camp (the media hasn’t been granted access to live action). With Griffin still regaining his form after offseason toe surgery, it’s Jordan — an unstoppable force directly around the rim — who may be asked to do more early in the season.

“He’s been great. He loves playing with the guards,” coach Doc Rivers said. “They’re so dynamic going downhill, that DJ today had 15 dunks. So we keep hearing he won’t get those. I think today he learned he may get more, because there’s more speed and there’s better ball movement.”

Free-throw attempts (43 percent career) notwithstanding, it’ll be tough to top his recent output (12.7 ppg, 13.8 rpg in 2016-17). Jordan was an All-NBA first-teamer in 2016 and a third-teamer in 2015 and 2017, and made his first All-Star team last season while converting 71.4 percent of his attempts.

The one-year Texas A&M product had been to Hawaii a handful of times in the past, always for family vacation and relaxation. Pearl Harbor was his first “educational” experience here, he said. It seemed to bring an edge to his tone for the remainder of the conversation.

”I feel like the intensity’s definitely picked up,” Jordan said of camp. “We got a lot of new guys, a lot of new faces. But we got a lot of great guys who (I) feel like want to prove something. And we all want to band together and do something huge here, and that’s what we’re going to do.

“I’ve seen a difference in offense. We’re moving up and down the floor a lot faster. Everybody’s getting involved. We have a lot of playmakers, a lot of guys who can handle the basketball. It’s fun to see. It’s only our third day; we’ve got a long way to go. But today was great.”

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