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DeAndre Jordan steps outside and likes what he sees

The Clippers center makes a shot from outside the lane for the first time in his four-season NBA career, and that's something to be remembered.

February 11, 2012|T.J. Simers
  • DeAndre Jordan, shown talking to Coach Vinny Del Negro on Saturday, had 11 points, a team-best 12 rebounds and two blocked shots during the Clippers' 111-86 victory over Charlotte. But his biggest moment of the night was hitting what he described as a 17-foot jump shot.
DeAndre Jordan, shown talking to Coach Vinny Del Negro on Saturday, had… (Chuck Burton / Associated…)

From Charlotte, N.C. — We're talking history here. The kind of thing you might never see again in your lifetime.

None of the Clippers had been witness to such an amazing accomplishment before. There was a buzz throughout the locker room after having DeAndre Jordan take their breath away.

Just think if you had the chance to be there to watch Babe Ruth point to center field in Wrigley Field and watch him hit the next pitch there for a home run.

What a thrill it would have been to be sitting ringside when Cassius Clay whipped Sonny Liston, or sitting in the stands on a night when Sandy Koufax was perfect.

I went all the way to Orlando, Cleveland, Philadelphia and even Charlotte because I'm sure there are folks out there who are still kicking themselves for leaving before Kirk Gibson's home run.

So I hung in there in places where no else would want to spend any time just on the chance that if it ever happened, I would be there if Jordan stepped outside the paint and made a basket.

It had never happened. Never.

The Clippers are paying Jordan $10.2 million this season, and not once in his NBA career has he hit a shot while standing outside the key.

"Yes, I have," protested Jordan with a grin before Saturday night's game. "I've made a free throw."

That alone on most nights might be right up there with the Miracle on Manchester, but this was Bob Welch striking out Reggie Jackson on 11 straight fastballs, Anthony Davis going the distance against Notre Dame to start the second half or UCLA beating USC in football.

Hours earlier we had sat together on the Clippers bench going over the fact, again and again, that he had never hit a shot of any length and had played so poorly the last two games.

"Time to do something or else," I told him, motivation just something extra that comes with Page 2.

Now when you consider he started against Cleveland two games ago and never took a shot the whole game — is there anything in L.A. sports history to top the shock of this bomb?

"We've been working on that for the last four years," deadpanned Blake Griffin.

"Did you see our bench when he made it?" said Chris Paul.

The Clippers went wild, everyone leaping to their feet while Jordan ran down the court a la Shaq looking at his hand as if it really were alive.

The official play-by-play called it a "12-foot jump shot."

Griffin and Paul said it traveled 13 feet.

Jordan had it at 17 feet.

"D.J. wants to be a shooting guard so badly," Paul said.

The assist went to Randy Foye, who set up Griffin for his first NBA basket last season.

"I'm happy for the big fella," Foye said, while shocked to learn Jordan had never scored from outside before. "And I had no choice but to pass it to him because I had two guys on me."

A game-changer is the way Jordan described it, maybe the difference between the Clippers beating Charlotte by 25 rather than just 23 points.

"The clock was winding down," Jordan said in making sure future generations get a good picture of what took place. "Blake is screaming for me to shoot, I'm thinking T.J., I lace up the ball, let it go — and OK, it bounces around a little — but it goes in.

"Of course if the clock says anything but three seconds with the 24-second clock running down, I would have passed it."

Jordan scores 11 points for the game but leads the team with a dozen rebounds and blocks a pair of shots. He's a force once again in the middle even if it is the woeful Bobcats as the opponent.

"I don't care if it was just a team of kids, it was important for me to be aggressive," Jordan said. "I haven't played up to par, and I need to be playing with energy every night. I'm 23 years old and I need to be ready to go every night."

The Clippers' offense, though, is designed to feed the ball to the other four starters with Jordan setting screens. At the other end, his role is to alter or block shots and begin the Clippers' fastbreak.

So far, it has worked beyond expectations. Seven times in franchise history, the Clippers have finished a season with 17 wins or fewer. They haven't hit the halfway mark in this abbreviated season, and they needed only 25 games to win 17. It took them 43 a season ago to win as many.

But as they continue to progress, so must Jordan. Clippers assistant coach Marc Iavaroni says of Jordan, "I like what he could be bringing.

"He's 23, and where were we when we were 23? He already has the defensive instincts to make him very valuable, and more than that, he wants to be good."

Or, as Jordan said, "I want to be great in a lot of different things, but I get down on myself when it doesn't always happen. That's why I like to listen to those who know better; it makes sense to make sure I'm on the right path."

But I cannot be there for him every night, so much work yet to be done with the Lakers.

"Do you think you could maybe draw up a play for Jordan?" I said, only one game remaining on this trip and knowing Coach Vinny Del Negro also needs some help at times.

"I'll do that," Del Negro said. "But it will be a little more in the vicinity of the rim."

But as high as Jordan is flying now, I bet he thinks he can go Kobe when the 24-second clock is winding down and nobody will notice.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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