Clips exercise option on Blake Griffin
The Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday formally extended a $1,091,100 qualifying offer to restricted free agent center DeAndre Jordan and picked up the fourth-year option on power forward Blake Griffin and third-year options on guard Eric Bledsoe and forward Al-Farouq Aminu.
While all of these moves were expected and somewhat perfunctory, extending the qualifying offer to Jordan formally begins what could be an intriguing and revealing process for the Clippers, who now have the right to match any offer sheet the athletic big man signs with another team.
Clippers general manager Neil Olshey stopped short of guaranteeing the team would match any offer for Jordan, but sounded confident in the franchise's resolve to do so.
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"DeAndre was a key priority for us heading into this offseason and this is the first step in the process," Olshey said. "Like the rest of the young core of our team, we see DeAndre being with our franchise a long time and playing a key role in helping us become a perennial playoff team."
Jordan is a restricted free agent this year because he was only a second-round pick in 2008. Eric Gordon, the team's first-round draft choice in 2008, is under the team's control for at least one more season.
Jordan, who is now being represented by Arn Tellem after his previous agent Bob Myers left to work in the Golden State Warriors front office, is expected to be among the most sought-after big men on the free agent market after averaging 7.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks last season.
Jordan started 66 games after expected starter Chris Kaman went down midseason with an injury and missed nearly two-thirds of the season.
He can begin entertaining offers from other teams on July 1, but that is obviously complicated by the looming threat of a lockout if a new collective bargaining agreement cannot be reached by June 30.
Aminu, the eighth overall pick, averaged 6.5 points and 3.3 rebounds in 81 games as a rookie. Bledsoe, the 18th pick, averaged 6.7 points and 3.6 assists in 81 games, including 25 starts. He was named to the 2010-11 T-Mobile All-Rookie Second Team.
July 1 is also the day the Clippers could begin negotiations on an extension with Gordon, one of their leading scorers from last year's team. If this was a normal year, all indications are that the team would do so the second the clock struck 9:01 p.m. in Los Angeles on June 30.
While there was previously some uncertainty over whether Gordon would sign a long-term extension with the team after it lost 116 games his first two seasons, a source close to the situation said that much of that uncertainty has been allayed after the Clippers traded guard Baron Davis to the Cleveland Cavaliers in February.
Gordon made little secret of his feelings about Davis, the oft-injured point guard whose work ethic and inconsistent play hamstrung the franchise for two seasons before he enjoyed a resurgence in the 2010-11 season.
In a postgame interview in December of 2009, Gordon famously said of Davis, "Last year, he never was focused. I'm just going to say it."
This past season, the Clippers made a noticeable effort to put the ball into Gordon's hands more often, letting the offense flow through him and Griffin. He averaged a career-high 22.3 points in 56 games before a wrist injury derailed the final few months of his season.
Gordon is under contract for $3.8 million in 2011-12. Under the terms of the current CBA, the team would be able extend him a qualifying offer of $5.1 million before June 30, 2012 and make him a restricted free agent. If he hasn't signed an extension before that time, Gordon could accept the qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2013.
Griffin can become a restricted free agent after the 2013 season and unrestricted free agent after the 2014 season.
After sitting out the entire 2009-10 season with a knee injury, he returned to post an All-Star caliber year for the Clippers last season.
On the season, he posted averages of 22.5 points and 12.1 rebounds and recorded 63 double-doubles. He was the only player in the NBA to average at least 20 points, 12 rebounds and three assists, was the first rookie to be voted into the All-Star Game since Tim Duncan in 1998 and was a six-time Rookie of the Month selection for the Western Conference.
In January of this year, Olshey told ESPNLosAngeles.com that Griffin, the reigning Rookie of the Year, "will only ever be a Clipper."
Of course, Olshey is currently only under contract through October of 2011.
Ramona Shelburne is a columnist and reporter for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Information from ESPNLosAngeles.com contributor Pedro Moura was used in this report.
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