DeAndre Jordan on gold medals: “I think they’re above NBA rings”

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Spoken like a guy in Rio trying to win one, DeAndre Jordan is pumping up the value of a gold medal.

Jordan and the rest of his USA teammates enter the win-or-go-home tournament phase of the Rio Olympics on Wednesday, taking on Manu Ginobili and Argentina (5:45 Eastern on the NBC Sports Network). The Americans have not dominated the competition, they need to play better (particularly on defense), but they remain the heavy favorites to win gold.

Jordan spoke with Marc Stein and Mark Schwarz of ESPN about the USA’s three-game quest for gold.

“I think they’re above NBA rings,” Jordan told ESPN… “I may get in trouble for saying that, but I believe that. I feel like this is more special. You’re not just playing teams in the U.S. You’re playing teams from all over the world. And this is even more special because there’s an NBA champion crowned every year, but this is every four years.

“You’ve got to really think about that, man, because it’s extremely special.”

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Jordan is right, a gold medal is extremely special. Fewer NBA players have one of those than an NBA title. It is an experience and a chance to represent your country not a lot of people get.

But it’s different from an NBA title. The grind, the marathon, that a team must survive to win an NBA title is a tougher road than even this USA team faces to win gold. The mountain to climb to get an NBA title is much more challenging — the separation between the quality of teams at the top of the NBA is narrow, that is not the case in the Olympics. Jordan knows that, he has been on a good Clipper team that can’t get out of the second round.

That said, Jordan should be pumping himself up to win gold — he needs to play better to make sure the USA gets one.