One of the biggest questions in the wake of the Lakers signing DeAndre Jordan last week is how big of a role he’ll play for the team this season. But while we didn’t get an exact answer to that at his introductory press conference on Friday, some of Jordan’s remarks did suggest that he at least expects to have opportunities to contribute.
Take, for example, what Jordan had to say to reporters when he was asked why he sought an exit from the Nets (emphasis mine):
“I think it was just both parties wanting to figure out something that was best for both of us. And I feel like they gave me that respect as a veteran player to be able to understand and know that I want to compete. I’m a competitor, man. We all are in this league and we want to be able to be out there and competing, but also it just worked better for both of us. I’m excited to be a part of this Lakers franchise and this organization with this group of guys, and I’m focused on here.”
“Compete” was basically Jordan’s word of the day, as he also used it when asked about his relationship with Nets stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, who recruited him to the Nets originally in the summer of 2019 (again, emphasis mine):
“Oh we’re definitely not friends anymore (laughs). No, I’m joking. We’re friends before basketball, after basketball and I think ultimately we all just want to be happy. And being able to compete is something that’s very important to me and they understand that, and we’re brothers beyond basketball.
“So us being teammates or not isn’t going to reflect on or affect our relationship. I did have a great time in Brooklyn the two years that I was there, being able to experience that culture in New York, my family being able to experience that culture in New York and being able to live in that city and play for that team was awesome, and I have a ton of memories from the two years that I was there. I won’t forget those, but I’m definitely excited to start this next chapter.”
That semantic choice feels notable, because in team-wide terms, it’s not like Jordan wasn’t going to “compete” with the Nets, who are the preseason championship favorite in most sports books. What he wasn’t going to get to do there, however, is the individual version of competing: Playing when it matters. Jordan played a grand total of zero minutes during Brooklyn’s most recent postseason run as the Nets turned to micro-ball to “compete” with their opponents.
The Lakers are pretty clearly seeking a different identity, one Jordan fits a lot more neatly in to. They want large bodies to take the burden of playing full-time center off of Anthony Davis, something the team has tried to do since acquiring him. And with their jettisoning of Montrezl Harrell and Marc Gasol this summer, it’s clear they want to return to the days when their non-AD big men had two jobs: Dunk the ball, and keep their hands up near the rim on defense like an inflatable tube man advertising for a used car dealership.
They brought back Dwight Howard to do exactly that, and clearly want Jordan to fill some facsimile of the JaVale McGee role.
Does that mean he’ll start, or be the first center off the bench? Not necessarily. But Davis literally thanked general manager Rob Pelinka for adding Jordan as he passed the latter’s introductory media interviews. It seems unlikely he did that for a player who won’t factor into the rotation, just like Jordan’s word (and team) choice suggests that he at the very least expects to have a shot to compete for minutes and contribute in this situation.
None of this guarantees he’ll play a huge role, or that he’s been promised anything, but it does mean anyone watching this team should be prepared to actually see him on the floor quite a bit, and to see all the associated benefits and drawbacks that will come with that stylistic choice.