Up until this past NBA season, DeAndre Jordan was best known as All-Star teammate Blake Griffin’s buddy.
Recently though, after averaging 10.4 ppg, a League-leading 13.6 rpg and 2.5 bpg, Jordan has garnered plenty of his own acclaim. The sixth-year center, who was drafted in the second round out of Texas A&M, finished third in the Defensive Player of the Year voting and saw an avalanche of positive media attention fall his away in the spring.
“I feel like I definitely made some improvements this season,” says Jordan. “For a lot of that, I have to give credit to Doc [Rivers]. He gave me that confidence and opportunity to just go out there and play.”
With his second season under Doc slated to get underway in less than two months, Jordan is getting ready to take the next step towards stardom. On a recent afternoon, while taking a break from working out to promote McDavid’s ankle braces and sleeves, the 26-year-old spoke with SLAM about how he spent his summer, how he approaches fashion and how he plans on getting better.
Safe to say, Jordan’s days as Griffin’s Robin are over.
SLAM: How was your summer?
DeAndre Jordan: Summer was great! It was tough ending the season how it ended, how we ended up losing, but it makes for a better off-season and for more motivation towards our next season.
SLAM: Did you experience or do anything new this summer? Any firsts?
DJ: I don’t think there was. Everything was pretty much the same for me, besides for all of my brothers being out of the house back home in Texas. You know, they’re all in college or have their own lives. My mom finally got everybody out of the house! She would always say, “I can’t wait for all of you guys to get out of her!” Now that everybody is out, she wants us all back. It’s funny how things turn out.
SLAM: She was probably happy when you were home this summer.
DJ: Oh, for sure. Going from four boys to everybody being gone was a huge change for her.
SLAM: In most families, everyone argues about who the best athlete is. I hope your brothers admit that you take that title?
DJ: No, they definitely would not admit that. We still have competitions to this day about who the better athlete is at whatever it may be—basketball, football, baseball, whatever.
SLAM: Speaking of football, I just watched some highlights of you playing flag football. You’re out there looking like Dez Bryant.
DJ: Man, I had to throw up the X a couple of times! It was fun, getting out there and doing something you like to do but is not your career, and it was for a really good cause.
SLAM: Coming from Texas and all, was football ever more important to you than basketball?
DJ: I always loved basketball, but then I loved football once I started playing it. Then I hated it, when I got flipped [over] after catching a pass. After that, I knew it wasn’t for me. But anytime I can play flag football is fun, because I love it. I love to watch big, tall receivers, like Dez Bryant, who plays for my favorite team, the Cowboys. I watch Jimmy Graham and Megatron and I’m like, Woah, that’s got to be how I look on the field sometimes (laughs). At least I think.
SLAM: You got pretty high up on the one touchdown I saw.
DJ: All luck.
SLAM: A couple of NFL players played college basketball. Do you think there are some NBA players who could play football?
DJ: Absolutely. I think Matt Barnes could still play football. He was an All-American in high school, so he definitely could’ve went to college and the sky would’ve been the limit for him. I think LeBron, Blake [Griffin], Nate Robinson and all those guys could’ve played football. I think any person who is really athletic and can take that physical contact that they take on Sunday, Monday and Thursday can do it.
SLAM: Shoot, you could then. I would just run fades for you in the end zone all day.
DJ: I only want to get in the game when we’re in the red zone. I’m not going across the middle.
SLAM: On another note, Chauncey Billups just retired. What do you think about him and his retirement?
DJ: He helped me out tremendously. The two or three years we played together, he was my mentor on and off the court. He taught me how to be a pro, how to not have ups and downs. He was really big on staying even-keeled. Playing 17 years in this League is tough. He won a Championship and a Finals MVP, so I just wanted to pick his brain as much as possible. He was somebody who really wanted to help me. With that, you can only appreciate it and listen to everything he has to say. He definitely helped me turn my career around faster then what was expected.
SLAM: Do you see a future for him in coaching?
DJ: If he wants to, absolutely. I think he has that connection with players. He can talk to a rookie, a guy in his prime or a vet and everybody will respect him the same way. So if coaching is in his heart, I feel that’s something he can definitely excel at.
SLAM: New York Fashion Week just came and went, so I have to ask you: When you are wearing your ankle brace and sleeve, do you wear it above your sock or under your sock?
DJ: I like to wear my McDavid brace underneath my sock because I want to feel it on my actual skin and ankle. That way I can feel stable and supported when I’m playing.
SLAM: For you, is the brace preventive or have you had some ankle issues?
DJ: Well, I feel like if you play basketball you’ve tweaked your ankle before, and it’s not a good feeling. With the McDavid sleeve and brace on, I’m more comfortable and confident out there when I’m playing. When I have that on, I feel like I can jump up in the air and do as many defensive slides as I need. I feel safe. When I don’t, I may not feel all the way safe.
SLAM: In terms of style, what’s your style like?
DJ: I’m not your normal person that you dress, so anything I put on is going to be interesting. I just got into fashion a couple of years ago, and now I’m getting into it more and more and I’m starting to like it a lot, but I like everything. If I see something GQ Magazine—a nice outfit, a suit or vest—I might think that I like that. Or I might take a top from this outfit and a bottom from another outfit and try to put them together and see how it looks. You know, really experimenting and throwing a lot of things together.
SLAM: I have to ask: What’s the most prized possession in your closet? Like, if there was a fire in your crib, what’s the one thing you’d have to save?
DJ: Man, besides underwear? I probably would say my jean jacket. I love my jean jacket.
SLAM: Until this past year, people associated you with dunking and blocked shots and, maybe, free throws. Then, you got all sorts of credit, especially after the All-Star break, for your defense and all-around play. Do you think you got monumentally better this past year or people just got hip to your game?
DJ: I feel like I definitely made some improvements this season. For a lot of that, I have to give credit to Doc [Rivers]. He gave me that confidence and opportunity to just go out there and play. When you have somebody like that who backs you up 150 percent, you can only excel. When he came in and told me what he wanted and expected from me, I took on that challenge and it paid off.
SLAM: So what areas of your game are you hopping to take to next level this coming season?
DJ: Honestly, I’m just looking to improve my game all-around. I’m looking to become a better defender, a better offensive threat for us. I want to be able to be a better free throw shooter for our team down the stretch, so I can stay in games and be able to get us stops, and also be able to execute offensively so we can win those games.
SLAM: You finished third in the Defensive Player of the Year voting last year. Are you going for first this year?
DJ: Absolutely. There’s no doubt in my mind, I’m trying to go for first. I don’t want to finish second or third anymore—it’s not fun.
SLAM: You have a new team owner and some new teammates. What are you expecting out of the team this year?
DJ: Everybody’s goal in the NBA is to win a Championship—that’s the ultimate. I feel like that is our goal. We have the pieces, the staff and everything we need to contend for a Championship. We just have to remain healthy, and with the guys that we added, I feel like the sky’s the limit for our team.