LOS ANGELES — The title they dreamed of never materialized, but don’t underestimate the impact of the Lob City era with the Clippers. Before them, the Clippers were a laughing stock of an organization run by a penny-pinching, racist owner where players of any value looked for the escape hatch. By the time it all broke apart in 2017, there was a new owner and a different perception of the organization around the league. The kind of reputation that has big-name free agents giving them serious consideration in 2019.
DeAndre Jordan was the first of the Clippers’ big three to come to the franchise, an early second-round pick of the team in 2008. Before the Clippers took on Jordan and his current team (Dallas) on Thursday night, Rivers said he thought the franchise should retire DJ’s number.
“When you think of [Jordan] more than anybody, you think LA Clipper,” Rivers said pregame. “I think DJ, in my opinion, will qualify when he’s done. For sure.”
“It’s really humbling,” Jordan responded postgame. “There’s no secret Doc is my favorite. I love Doc. He’s a big reason for a lot of the success I’ve had in this league, and I appreciate him a lot. For him to say something like that, it’s super cool.”
During a first quarter break, the Clippers played a video tribute to Jordan, which was followed by a standing ovation from the Clipper faithful.
Jordan was the first of the Clippers’ big three to come to Los Angeles, drafted a season ahead of Blake Griffin being taken No. 1 overall (then sitting out his rookie season due to injury). The two of them — with the underrated help of Mike Dunleavy — helped change the organization into something more professional. With Griffin in particular, the Clippers had the rare young superstar talent who was the hardest worker in the room, and Jordan was right there with them — Dunleavy convinced then-owner Donald Sterling not to blow this rare opportunity and both invest more in the franchise and run it more professionally. That laid the groundwork for future coaches and GMs, and when Chris Paul eventually came to the team everything changed.
The Clippers currently have zero retired numbers. The most likely first person to be honored is long-time broadcaster Ralph Lawler, who is retiring after this season. But the Clippers should honor Jordan, Griffin, and Paul, because whatever is next in Los Angeles would not be possible without what they did to change a franchise’s culture.