Expectations have been increased for the Los Angeles Clippers, for whom anything less than a deep playoff run — and possibly an NBA Finals berth — would be considered a disappointment.
They addressed their two most glaring needs for an elite head coach and a reliable outside shooter by adding Doc Rivers and J.J. Redick, respectfully, in the offseason. How far the team goes now depends on Chris Paul doing more of the same and Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan growing into the potential they so obviously possess.
Jordan took that responsibility seriously in the offseason, he told reporters, from getting in better shape and honing his offensive repertoire. But the most glaring deficiency in his game — free throws — was left mostly unaddressed.
“I’m going to shoot the ball [on foul shots] the same way, man,” Jordan said, according to The Los Angeles Times. “I’m not really thinking too much into it. I watched a lot of film of last year, the shots that I made and the shots that I missed. I feel like if I just keep the ball up and don’t have a hitch in my shot and don’t think about it as much and — no offense — don’t pay attention to what you [reporters] say, I’m going to be fine.”
Jordan shot 38.6 percent from the foul line last season. Depressingly for the Clippers, that was not his career low. Departed coach Vinny Del Negro, in one of the few understandable coaching decisions he made, benched Jordan for many close, late-game situations because Jordan’s brick-laying from the stripe was such a liability.
Those are problems that seem to require more than watching a few videos or drowning out the media’s accurate observation — not their opinion — that his free throw shooting is poor.
As a reminder, the Clippers won 56 games last season and were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs. Jordan, the team’s second-highest paid player at $10.5 million last year, averaged 24.0 minutes, 3.7 points and 6.3 rebounds — all decreases from his regular-season production — in the Clippers’ six-game loss to the Grizzlies.