DALLAS – Three plausible reasons the Dallas Mavericks waited patiently to get their hands on DeAndre Jordan is the center’s penchant for being a terrific rebounder and rim protector, along with his ability to be one of the NBA’s best pick-and-roll finishers.
Jordan is a defensive wizard in the middle of the paint largely because he can cover a lot of ground, largely because he’s a large man, and largely because he can erase some of the defensive deficiencies his teammates encounter on the perimeter. In essence, Jordan (6-11, 265) is exactly what the doctor prescribed when the Mavs went searching for a center during the offseason to help cure the weaknesses down in the interior defense.
“He’s a great rebounder,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Our defensive rebounding percentage will get better simply by virtue of him.”
Carlisle even harkened the name of Tyson Chandler when describing some of Jordan’s abundant talents. Chandler brought a much-needed defensive culture to the Mavs when he helped them win the 2011 NBA title.
Jordan has some of that similar defensive swag that Chandler brought to the table. Plus, his habit of collecting valuable offensive rebounds should be a plus for the Mavs.
“It creates possessions when you have a guy like him,” Carlisle said, referring to Jordan’s offensive rebounding exploits. “He’s a very good tip-out (rebounding) guy similar to what Tyson Chandler did a lot when he was here.
“The actual metrics of it are uncertain because we haven’t gotten into the season yet. But if you can generate second shots in this league, that’s a big plus. We’ve got take advantage of those things that he’s able to do.”
Jordan led the NBA in rebounds during the 2013-’14 season with 13.6 per game, and again in ’14-’15 with 15 per contest. He also finished second in the league in rebounds last season with a career-high 15.2 boards per game.
Yet as far as defense goes, Jordan is the first to point out that he’s unequivocally not a one-man Army as the Mavs prepare for their regular season opener Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. CT in Phoenix.
“I’m not going to come in and say I’m going to change our whole defensive scheme,” Jordan said. “But I know what I can bring to the table and I know what I’m going to try to bring to the table to this team and to this organization, and I’m super excited about it.
“But at the end of the day it’s going to take five guys.”
Jordan made the NBA’s All-Defensive first team in 2015 and ’16, and is known for locking in and blanketing the other team defensively while making them think twice about driving to the basket. But Jordan also realizes that basketball is a team sport, and he needs his teammates to step up and pitch in and do their part at the defensive end of the floor so all the pieces can be tied neatly together.
“Individually, we can only do so much,” Jordan said. “But I feel like when we’re connected — all five in whatever five guys are out there — we’ve got to be on a string, we’ve got to communicate, we’ve got to be physical, we’ve got to lock in the game plans and play.
“At the end of the day it’s basketball. I feel like everybody here is ready to go. We’ve got some guys who are capable (defenders) and have been defenders in their careers, and I’m excited to play with these guys.”
J. J. Barea also is excited to play with Jordan. The 12-year veteran has seen more than his fair share of highlights where Jordan was on the receiving end of the pick-and-roll play and completed the task by absolutely annihilating the rim via the lob dunk.
Asked after Monday’s practice about executing the lob dunk to Jordan, Barea smiled and said: “Oh, we’re trying to get a bunch. Dwight (Powell) was my target last year, so I’m good with him.
“So now I’ve got to see how it goes with DeAndre. We need more of those (lob dunks) this year.”
Jordan, who averaged double-doubles in each of the last five seasons, had the perfect lob dunk marriage when former Los Angeles Clippers teammates Chris Paul was lobbing the ball to him near the rim. Jordan believes second-year point guard Dennis Smith Jr. and rookie Luka Doncic possess some of those same pick-and-roll qualities as Paul.
“I think they’re both capable of coming off and making plays,” Jordan said. “Dennis, we’ve seen him, he can explode to the basket,
“And Luka’s so big and strong he can finish and shoot the basketball. So I feel like when I’m rolling to the basket and drawing attention, those guys are making shots and driving to the basket.”
And when it came to heaping praises on his teammates, Jordan didn’t stop there.
“We’ve got Wesley (Matthews) and Harrison (Barnes) and (Dorian Finney-Smith) knocking down shots, so we’re going to be tough. But we’ve all got to put it together and just kind of attack the defense and whatever opens up we’ll take that option.”
That’s precisely what the Mavs said to themselves when the option of signing Jordan to a one-year free agent contract became available to them this past summer. It’s an option the Mavs couldn’t refuse.
Especially since Jordan verbally agreed to sign with the Mavs as a free agent in the summer of 2015, but surprisingly changed his mind and instead re-signed with the Clippers.
“We’re excited to have him,” Carlisle said. “There’s no other way to say it.”
NOTES: Coach Rick Carlisle said whether he takes center DeAndre Jordan out of a close game down the stretch so he won’t intentionally get fouled and have to shoot free throws will depend on the situation. “We’ve got to get into the season,’ Carlisle said. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in him, really in all areas. His free throw shooting has gotten better each year, he made six in a row in the last game. He’s a big part of what we’re doing. Maybe he’s got to guard the (center) that can shoot from 30 feet. Well, that’s tough for him. We’ll do whatever is necessary.” Jordan only played in two of the Mavs’ four preseason games. He was 3-of-6 from the free throw line during the Sept. 29 preseason opener against Beijing, and was 6-of-6 from the charity stripe during last Friday’s game against Charlotte. Jordan’s free throw shooting has been on a steady climb in recent years. He shot 39.7 percent from the line in the 2014-’15 season, 43 percent the next year, 48.2 percent during the ’16-’17 campaign, and a career-high 58 percent last season. . .Harrison Barnes (strained right hamstring) and Dirk Nowitzki (sore left ankle) definitely won’t play in Wednesday’s regular season opener against the Phoenix Suns, but there’s a chance Barnes cold play in the home opener Saturday against Minnesota. Following Monday’s practice, center DeAndre Jordan discussed going against the Suns without Barnes and Nowitzki. “Those two guys are the cornerstones of our team,” Jordan said. “Dirk’s been here for 40 years, Harrison is a helluva offensive player who we run a lot of things for. And he’s a defender for our team, a rebounder for our team, so we definitely are going to miss those guys. We can’t replace them, but I feel like with the depth that we have we’ve got to be able to manage and hold it down for them while those guys are out.”. .Guard J. J. Barea said he excited about what the Mavs’ bench will be capable of doing this season. “Our bench is going to be really good again,” Barea said. “I think we know we could be better, and that we’re going to have a better season, and I think that’s going to help.” With Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Powell, Maxi Kleber, Devin Harris, Dorian Finney-Smith, Salah Mejri, Jalen Brunson and Barea coming off the bench, Barea said there’s a chance the Mavs may produce the NBA’s top bench this season. “We just got to stay together,” Barea said. “I know coach is going to put us in good situations out there. But there’s a really good chance were going to be pretty good on our bench this year.”. .So what impresses DeAndre Jordan the most about rookie guard/forward Luka Doncic? “His English has gotten a lot better,” Jordan said. “He can pass a little bit. And dribble. We’re really lucky to have him. He’s going to be a great player here for this franchise for a very long time. Him being a rookie, I’ve already said, he’s advanced for being a rookie, for being 19 years old.”. .A big-time Dallas Cowboys fan, Jordan was thrilled with his favorite NFL team’s 40-7 thrashing of the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. “Just the team comaraderie we had yesterday man, we were very effective offensively,” Jordan said. “(Pro mixed martial artist and boxer) Conor McGregor was there throwing a helluva spiral.” Told that, at 6-11 and 265 pounds, he would be a beast on the back shoulder fade, Jordan said: “I’m a red zone receiver. I don’t know if they do 10-day (contracts) in the NFL.”