I got a chance to speak with Jared Jordan after the Clippers Summer League practice today. I just sort of showed up at the practice facility at the Spectrum South Bay (no doubt to the chagrin of the Clippers communications department) and Rob Raichlen of the Clippers was nice enough to let me stay. (More on the dynamic between NBA teams, the league, and the blogosphere in a coming post.)
Since I've been championing Subway (my new nickname for Jordan - we'll take it for a spin today) for awhile, I thought the media availability with him was the best time for me to go out on a limb, even if it meant potentially alienating the communications department.
It was nice to meet Jared. I'm not sure there's a lot to be learned from a 15 minute interview, but I thought he handled himself very well. You're not going to get a lot beyond the standard answers to the standard questions in the post-practice courtside interview, but the player can provide those standard answers relatively well or poorly, and Jared certainly did well. Still, it all feels a little Nuke LaLoosh, though to his credit he said nothing of giving 110%.
Art Thompson of the OC Register was there, and asked a lot of the salient questions about the jump in the competition level, the not so subtle competition going on between Subway, Will Conroy and Guillermo Diaz for the third (healthy) point guard on the Clippers, and about the Orlando pre-draft camp where Subway established himself as a legitimate NBA prospect. Check out Saturday's register for Art's take.
One thing that Jared said about the Orlando camp that struck me : "I know I can pass." A passer's offensive game doesn't diminish as the players around him increase in skill - it improves. The better the athletes and shooters around Subway, the better he becomes.
For my part, I'm still stuck on the power of the talent evaluators to determine how far a guy like Jared Jordan can go in the world of basketball. By NBA standards he's short, he can't jump and he's not overly quick. But he's continually been the best player on the court wherever he plays - in high school, in college, at the Orlando pre-draft camp. Doubters will say, "He didn't play college ball in a major conference." Well, whose fault is that? How many UConn Huskies got drafted this year? (That would be none.) Jared Jordan didn't play in a major conference because he was only recruited by Marist, Canisius and Hartford (Vin Baker's alma mater). We're living in the echo chamber if he doesn't get to play pro ball because he didn't get to play major college ball. What if he hadn't gotten an invitation to Orlando?
Of course the idea that he's never played against top competition is a falsehood in and of itself. Marist beat Minnesota in a Thanksgiving tournament, and Subway had 21-8-8 in a loss to Arkansas the next day in the final. In the postseason NIT, they beat Oklahoma State in Stillwater - something that Kevin Durant and Texas didn't do - before falling to NC State in Raleigh (there are no home games for MAAC teams in the NIT, that's for sure).
While working out for NBA teams, Subway often found himself matched up against the same group of point guard prospects projected as second round picks - guys like Zabian Dowdell and Taurean Green and Gabe Pruitt and Aaron Brooks from big time programs. He didn't exactly tell me that he schooled those guys, but it was pretty clear that he felt he outplayed them. Of course the Clippers thought so as well given that all of them save Brooks were on the board when they drafted in the second round.
Still, even if he can run an offense at the next level (and I have little doubt of that), the real question is going to be at the other end. I asked him if he thought he could defend in the NBA. His answer was honest but confident. "There are guys in the NBA that no one can guard by themselves. Guys like Tony Parker and Allen Iverson. You just have to work hard and play within the team defensive scheme and get help. But there are tricks to defense. When to go under the screen, when to go over it. You play defense as much with your head as with your feet." Well put. I'm certain that MDsr is more concerned with whether he makes the correct read and rotation on defense, and less with what his score was on the lateral quickness test in Orlando.
Jared Jordan talks a good game. He's got a good head on his shoulders, and he knows what he's up against. He's been doubted all his basketball life, and the NBA is just one more (admittedly big) step in that process. We'll get our first chance to see him in a Clippers uniform on Sunday in Las Vegas. He's always been the best player on the court wherever he's played. Why should the NBA Summer League be any different?