DeAndre Jordan frightens Dick Bavetta (Elsa/Getty)Despite the nicknames and widespread excitement, the Los Angeles Clippers are still very much a work in progress: Chris Paul is great, but still needs to figure out exactly where his teammates like the ball; Chauncey Billups hasn't quite adjusted to playing off the ball; and Blake Griffin is a very talented athletic dynamo with a dearth of post moves. There's no shame in this state of affairs — it's just how basketball teams work. Hype tends to move faster than the pace of development.
Center DeAndre Jordan seems to be pretty comfortable, though. With so much talent around him, Jordan's role is pretty simple: finish dunks, block shots, and stay out of foul trouble. He's doing quite well with those tasks so far, scoring 8.0 points per game on 66.7-percent shooting from the field and leading the NBA in blocks with 3.0 per game. Yet, for all those accomplishments, he says he's still trying to figure out proper blocked-shot technique. From Baxter Holmes of the Los Angeles Times, as part of a larger piece on the art of the block (via TBJ):
"I'm working on it now, like Bill Russell did, blocking [to keep the ball] inbounds or blocking to a teammate," says Jordan, 23. [...]
"I call it action, because it's not a reaction," Russell once said. "When you block a shot on reaction, then you're lucky. In other words, it's just jumping ability. There's more to it than that."
Length and height help, says Jordan, who's 6 feet 11 with a 7-6 wingspan. His size really helped in high school when he could easily block 10 shots a game. But in the NBA, he's learning that a successful block often depends on timing. "I didn't realize until later that I could jump after people released a shot," he says.
There's often a misconception that blocking shots depends mostly on athleticism, but the technique described here matters much more to the true greats. Keeping the ball in play, or thinking of challenging shots as a timing exercise rather than a display of athletic dominance, can lead to better results. It's a great sign that Jordan has embraced his role to this extent, because it would have been easy for him to rest on his natural ability. Instead, he's pushing himself to understand his role as best he can.
It should be noted, though, that the task he's given himself is easier than it would be for other players because the Clippers' stars allow him to specialize. Paul and (potentially) Griffin are so talented that Jordan can think of himself as a craftsman who must perfect a few specific skills instead of a talented young big man who needs to help a growing team in as many ways as he possibly can. He can focus when most young big men don't get that luxury.
It's a scary thought given how adept Jordan already is at blocking shots. If he continues at his current rate of improvement, we might see a few games of double-digit swats in his future.