When DeAndre Jordan signed with the Nets in 2019, he came as part of a package deal with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, as the two megastars both agreed to less-than-max contracts to preserve cap space so that Brooklyn could add the former All-Star center.
Two years into the four-year, $40 million deal he signed in Brooklyn, Jordan was traded to the Detroit Pistons and summarily waived, paving the way for him to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday.
As Jordan left one star-studded roster for another, the big man deadpanned that his relationship with the Nets’ dynamic duo soured on his way out the door.
“We’re definitely not friends anymore, so …” Jordan said jokingly with a hearty laugh during his introductory video news conference Thursday.
He quickly assured the trio’s friendship is still intact. It was his role with the Nets — who came to rely on Blake Griffin and Nicolas Claxton at the 5 last season before signing LaMarcus Aldridge and Paul Millsap to add to their frontcourt rotation this summer — that changed.
“We’re friends before basketball, after basketball and I think ultimately we all just want to be happy,” Jordan said. “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.”
Jordan said his trade to Detroit, along with four second-round draft picks and $5.78 million, for Sekou Doumbouya and Jahlil Okafor, was the Nets organization working with him to help him find more opportunity. Jordan took a $4 million buyout from the Pistons and will earn the veteran’s minimum of $2.6 million from the Lakers, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks.
“It was just both parties wanted to figure out something that was best for both of us,” he said. “And I feel like they gave me that respect as a veteran player to be able to understand that I wanted to be able to compete. … It just worked better for both of us.”
He will join a Lakers team that has its own stockpile in the frontcourt in Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard and Marc Gasol.
Jordan, 33, is the latest 30-something former All-Star to join a Lakers squad that is already teeming with players of that ilk in LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo, Howard and Gasol.
While he doesn’t have the preexisting personal ties to the Lakers group that he had with Durant and Irving, he has admired many members of the team from afar.
“Just to be able to be with a team like this with guys that you respect and guys that you’ve competed against for the past — going into my 14th season has been great in seeing, ‘I wonder what it would be like to play with this guy,'” Jordan shared. “And you always think about that, whether you tell people or not.”
Jordan will return to L.A., where he spent the first 10 years of his career playing for the Clippers.
“Obviously, as you get older you start to see different things and honestly with the Clippers teams that we had, we had some bad luck,” Jordan said. “On the team that I was on last year, we had a little bad luck with injuries and some small things like that. But you definitely don’t want to take it for granted. … I’m excited to be able to be here and jell with these guys and build chemistry and it’s going to be a process but I think we’re all ready and excited for it.”