The Los Angeles Clippers finished with the second-worst free-throw shooting percentage in the NBA last season, thanks in large part to the persistent charity-stripe struggles of their forwards and centers. None of the Clippers' top four big men from 2011-12 — Blake Griffin (whom you might remember airballing a pair of freebies against the Atlanta Hawks just before St. Patrick's Day), DeAndre Jordan, Kenyon Martin and Reggie Evans — connected at a rate better than 52.5 percent on the season, which frequently made them late-game liabilities and kept the Clips' average tethered to the bottom of the league's rankings.
Evans and Martin are gone this year, but in the interest of improving the strokes of ascendant stars Griffin and Jordan, the Clippers hired shooting coach Bob Thate this offseason to work with them on their form and accuracy. In practice, Jordan's lefty motion looked good (especially, it seems, to teammate Caron Butler). But what about in live action, like when the Clippers squared off with the defending champion Miami Heat in a preseason game in Beijing as part of a tour of China?
This is where we remind you that Jordan really has worked on his free-throw shooting, improving from the dreadful 38.5 percent and 37.5 percent finishes of his first two NBA seasons to 45.2 percent in Year 3 and 52.5 percent last year. He's still a far cry from last year's league-average free-throw mark of 75.4 percent, but he's trending in the right direction, and with a couple more years of continued work and development, he could reach the brass ring of foul-line decency.
This is also where we remind you that Jordan has airballed free throws in each of the last three seasons, starting with two separate incidents early in 2009-10 season — on Nov. 13, 2009, against the Toronto Raptors:
... and on Dec. 30, 2009, against the Portland Trail Blazers:
He continued the streak in the final game of the 2010-11 season, on April 13, 2011, against the Memphis Grizzlies:
... promptly followed by one in the first game of the 2011-12 season, on Dec. 25, 2011, against the Golden State Warriors:
I'll have to check with our official statistician to confirm, but I don't believe this technically constitutes a legitimate continuation of that streak, since we're only in preseason. (Also, regional restrictions could loom large here, considering the free throw was shot outside of the continent of North America.) Even so, it's good to know that Jordan hasn't gotten rusty during the offseason; we might just see another whiff once the regular season starts.