- With Joel Embiid injured, the Sixers turned to 33-year-old reserve center DeAndre Jordan.
- Jordan’s ineffectiveness has drawn the ire of fans this season, and he was a -22 in Game 1 against the Heat.
- Despite calls to play someone else, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said they are sticking with Jordan.
Veteran center DeAndre Jordan has emerged as a focal point in the Philadelphia 76ers’ second-round series against the Miami Heat, and not for good reasons.
The 33-year-old Jordan has been thrust into the spotlight after 76ers star center Joel Embiid suffered an orbital fracture in the first round.
Jordan’s role with the Sixers has been a point of contention this spring. The Sixers signed Jordan in March for the regular season’s stretch run to be Embiid’s backup. They had to sign Jordan because they traded backup center Andre Drummond to the Brooklyn Nets in the James Harden-Ben Simmons swap.
Jordan has largely been ineffective for the Sixers this season. Once an elite athlete and rim patroller, Jordan is more ground-bound these days and less able to deter opponents from the paint. In 214 regular-season minutes, the Sixers were outscored by 39 with Jordan on the floor, translating to 7.7 points per 100 possessions.
Jordan barely played in the Sixers’ first-round victory over the Toronto Raptors, but with Embiid out, head coach Doc Rivers gave Jordan a starting role for Game 1 against Miami. It did not go well.
Jordan finished the game -22 in 17 minutes.
Miami raced out to a 15-6 lead in the first four minutes of the game. Philadelphia called a timeout and replaced Jordan with backup big man Paul Reed. The Sixers outscored the Heat 16-12 over the next six minutes before Jordan checked back in.
Indeed, Jordan looked a bit flat-footed against the smaller, quicker, more versatile Bam Adebayo.
Game 1 was part of a larger trend that has driven Sixers fans mad: the team does not play well with Jordan on the floor but has been decent with Reed, who was only a -3 in Game 1.
Sixers head coach Doc Rivers was unmoved after the game.
“We like DJ, we’re going to keep starting him whether you like it or not,” Rivers told reporters. “That’s what we’re going to do because our guys believe in him.”
Rivers said players voted at halftime to start Jordan in the second half.
And it’s been a source of consternation for fans: Jordan and the Sixers’ center rotation is the focus of at least 15 Reddit posts on r / Sixers on Tuesday alone.
Individual plus-minus stats can be deceiving in small samples. For instance, Jordan’s plus-minus was affected by plays like this open Tyler Herro three-pointer, which he was on the court for, but had no part in:
Jordan was not solely responsible for the Sixers’ mishaps – in fact, he defended several possessions fairly well – but there is also little evidence that he can make a positive impact on the floor at this stage of his career.
Playing time is an issue that has followed Jordan for several years now. With the Brooklyn Nets, Jordan’s playing time vs. young center Jarrett Allen’s reportedly became a contentious issue between former head coach Kenny Atkinson and his star players. Atkinson, who preferred to play Allen, was eventually let go.
This season, Jordan played 32 games with the Los Angeles Lakers, falling out of the rotation as the team posted a -12.3 net rating with him on the floor. He was waived in March.
Rivers has few options in Embiid’s absence. The 20-year-old Reed brings energy and hustle, but he is prone to fouling (he had 5 in 13 minutes in Game 1). Rivers can go small with Paul Millsap or Georges Niang at center, but neither can adequately protect the rim for long stretches.
The loss of an MVP candidate in Embiid has made who replaces him a key factor in this series. So far, Jordan does not seem up to the test, and Rivers’ decisions from here on out figure to be a major plot point.