With great power comes great responsibility.
I think Winston Churchill said that. Or maybe it's from Spiderman...
Either way, it applies to Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan. You have to tweak the sentiment a little, though. For Jordan, with great athleticism come great expectations. And he hasn't really met those in his short NBA career.
Read any scouting report (Insiders only), watch any game film, and it's as clear as day: Jordan is a freak. His athleticism stands out on a team that features another superhero-level athlete—Blake Griffin.
But unlike his frontcourt partner, Jordan hasn't figured out how to put his athletic gifts to good use. After a promising age-22 season in which Jordan averaged 7.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks, many in Clipperland expected a breakout year in 2011-2012.
Clipper management clearly expected the world: it quickly matched the four-year, $42.7 million dollar offer sheet Jordan signed with Golden State.
So when Jordan made only marginal improvements last year, it raised a few questions. The main one, though, was whether Jordan was ever going to use his athletic ability to do more than dunk three times a game.
The jury's still out on that one.
What we know for certain is that Jordan has every physical tool at his disposal. He's 6'11" and weighs 265 pounds. Despite the bulk, he jumps out of the gym, can run the floor and has monstrously long arms. He's even got the built-in advantage of being a lefty, which often throws off defenders.
By all accounts, he's also a really nice guy and an excellent locker-room presence.
The NBA landscape is riddled with players we unfairly qualify as disappointments. Any time someone like Jordan comes along and shows flashes of unparalleled talent, we ask a lot of them.
Maybe we ask too much. It's possible that Jordan is just a phenomenal athlete who doesn't have the skill or drive to improve himself. Maybe he'll never figure out defensive rotations or raise his terrible free-throw percentage.
Maybe for guys like Jordan, the sheer athletic dominance can't be turned into actual basketball skill. But we continue to hope for him to do more, to meet our expectations.
But guys like Jordan don't usually figure it out. Most of the time, freak athletes like Jordan remain valuable until their athleticism leaves them, and then their careers abruptly end. Jordan's still a very young player, though. So he'll still be around for a while.
This might be all Jordan's got. And maybe we don't have the right to expect more. Certainly, we're justified in asking him to be better if he's capable and just doesn't put in the work. But if he just plain can't get better, even with some practice, it's not his fault.
One thing's for sure: the 2012-13 season will be a make-or-break year for DeAndre Jordan. If he doesn't show some significant improvements now, there's a good chance he never will.
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