DeAndre Jordan goes up for a breakaway dunk. (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
It was halftime of the Clippers-Portland Trail Blazers game Thursday night and DeAndre Jordan was in the midst of having another impressive outing.
That prompted a bold comment from TNT NBA analyst Shaquille O'Neal.
"I'm going on the record. The best center in the West right now is DeAndre Jordan," O'Neal said. "You heard it here first."
Well, file that under Shaquille O'Neal hyperbole, but Jordan has made people take notice of him with his improved play at center for the Clippers.
The best center in the league does play in Los Angeles, every critic seems to agree, and that's Lakers center Dwight Howard.
Still, it was the type of compliment Jordan had not heard in his first four years in the NBA.
He just put together back-to-back games in which he had 21 points on eight-for-10 shooting against Portland and 20 points on 10-for-12 shooting against San Antonio, prompting O'Neal's comments.
"That's always good to hear. I appreciate that," Jordan said when told about O'Neal's comment. "But at the same time, I can't get complacent. I have to keep working hard. We all want to continue to get better. So, I love the compliment, but that's only going to make me work harder."
O'Neal wasn't done talking about Jordan.
"I don't know what all the other big guys were doing this summer, but I know what DeAndre Jordan was doing…He was working on his game," O'Neal said on the TNT telecast. "He's playing like a real big man, taking his time and going right over the top. Nothing can stop him in this game."
The 6-foot-11, 265-pound Jordan has developed a nice running hook with his left and right hands.
He now can post up with authority and seems to know what he wants to do when he gets the ball down low.
He's averaging 11.8 points on 75% shooting, 7.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots per game.
"We all worked our [butts] off this summer," Jordan said. "Everybody in this locker room."
Jordan has found a mentor in 15-year veteran Chauncey Billups.
The two talk every day, with Billups constantly encouraging Jordan, telling his young teammate that he has the skill and athleticism to be a force in the NBA.
Now Billups just wants Jordan to be consistent.
"Whether he has 20 points or four points, whether he's five for seven from the free-throw line or 0 for 8, none of that should affect defensively what he does," Billups said. "And none of that should affect his mood and his attitude in the locker room.
"He can't be up and down. You have to be the same way at all time and you have to keep working on that. And it's going to get better, man, and he's going to be a player where they are going to look at him and say, 'That's not the same DeAndre Jordan that we knew.' Which is already starting to happen."