DALLAS -- Doc Rivers doesn’t normally campaign for his players when it comes to individual awards.
He will usually shrug his shoulders, say he doesn’t know much about it, turn the question around and ask the reporters, who vote on such awards, who they would pick before moving on.
There is one player, however, that he not only campaigns for but does so in such a ferocious fashion that you would think he had a side job as his campaign manager.
Rivers has been promoting DeAndre Jordan for the Defensive Player of the Year award from the moment he came to Los Angeles two years ago. Before he even coached him in a single practice, he compared him to Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain on defense and said he was one of the most dominant big men in the league.
This season, Rivers said it would be a “travesty” if Jordan was not named an All-Star for the first time in his career (he was not) and called for an “investigation” if Jordan was not named the Defensive Player of the Year at the end of the season (he is not the current favorite).
It’s the kind of hyperbole that goes against the way Rivers talks about most of his players when it comes to individual honors. On Friday, Rivers finally admitted that the award doesn’t mean as much to him as seeing Jordan get the recognition he feel he deserves. And if that means Rivers has to go above and beyond in praising his 26-year-old center, so be it.
“The [Defensive Player of the Year award] is not that important to me, to be honest, but it’s important to him,” Rivers said. “I think he deserves it. I thought he deserved to be on the All-Star team. I’m a big supporter of role players. We don’t need to support the stars. They’re already supported. That’s probably why I’ve been more [adamant] about it. There are superstar role players throughout the league and they don’t get the credit. Those guys to me deserve more because they mean as much to the team as anybody else but they just don’t get the credit.”
Before the Clippers’ shootaround on Friday, Rivers said he took offense to an article by ESPN.com’s Tom Haberstroh, which outlined in detail why Jordan shouldn’t be named the Defensive Player of the Year.
“He didn’t mention rebounding,” Rivers said. “How the hell can you not mention rebounding in defense? Rebounding is maybe the No. 1 thing about defense because you have to get the rebound to stop the other [team]. The other thing he said was that there was not a lot of use, like a lot of guys aren’t driving. Exactly! They’re not driving because D.J. is there. Some of these numbers are great, they really are. I use them, I love them. We use so many numbers. But you could make an article on any number you want to, and that’s what I’ve learned with a lot of the writing now is you can create any article you want and use any number you want and that’s basically what the guy did.”
The problem is Haberstroh did mention rebounding -- a quarter of his article is on it -- and did take into account most of Rivers’ criticisms. Rivers' problem was more fundamental.
“I didn’t read it,” Rivers admitted. “[Clippers public relations] did a great job of giving me the points. I didn’t even know about it until yesterday."
Of course, Rivers should have read the article if he was going to comment on it and go so far as to be publicly offended by it. That’s partly the problem with his push for Jordan. It is a push made in a bubble, without any real consideration for Jordan’s competition for these awards.
When Rivers was pushing Jordan to be an All-Star he was careful not to disparage Dirk Nowitzki, DeMarcus Cousins or any of the other players picked instead of him while calling it a “travesty” that he was left off. And when Rivers was asked where Draymond Green or Andrew Bogut would rank in his Defensive Player of the Year ballot he shrugged his shoulders and called it a one-man race with Jordan the clear and only favorite.
Jordan may not win the award despite Rivers’ best efforts but will certainly be in the running after finishing third last season. He ranks second in the NBA in defensive win shares and despite their early struggles, the Clippers since the All-Star break are fourth in defensive rating. Jordan is also making the media rounds (he was on "Mike & Mike" and "The Dan Patrick Show" this week) and is being booked for more national television and radio shows over the final weeks of the season.
While Rivers continues to pump Jordan up, he is resigned to the fact that he probably won’t win anything anytime soon.
“Yeah, I feel like I’m always going to get the short end of the stick,” Jordan said. “It bothered me for a little bit that I didn’t get it [DPOY last year] but then it bothered me even more that I wasn’t on any all-defensive teams, knowing that I was third in the [DPOY] voting. I feel at this point as long as I’m getting the respect and acknowledgement from peers and coaches, that’s good enough.”
Not only is Jordan getting acknowledgement from his peers and coaches but he is also in line to get a max contract this offseason and said he plans to sign a long-term deal instead of taking a one-year deal despite the fact that the salary cap will take a big jump for the 2016-17 season.
“I’m not going to be greedy and sign a one-year deal,” Jordan said. “Nah. I’m just focused on getting it over with and focusing on playing again. I'm just trying to win here."