The Los Angeles Clippers reached out to the representatives of guard Eric Gordon and center DeAndre Jordan early Wednesday morning to discuss a contract extension for Gordon and a new contract for Jordan, who is a restricted free agent, general manager Neil Olshey told ESPNLosAngeles.com.
"The first phone calls from our organization today were in regard to our own players," Olshey said. "We're committed to the core group we have. We've been building slowly and we're in a great position to capitalize on that now with our cap flexibility. But we know that our existing players are a priority."
Under the expected terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, which has yet to be ratified, Gordon would be eligible for a four-year extension on his rookie contract. Previously those type of extensions had to be completed by the beginning of the season, but because of the lockout, it's unknown when that deadline will be. If Gordon and the Clippers cannot come to an agreement on an extension, he would become a restricted free agent after this season, giving him the right to sign an offer sheet elsewhere that the Clippers could match.
The fourth-year guard from Indiana had his best season as a professional last year, averaging 22.3 points and 4.4 assists.
Jordan was a second-round draft pick in 2008, which made him eligible for restricted free agency this year. He is expected to be one of the most sought-after free agent centers on the free agent market, although the Clippers would have the right to match any offer sheet he signs elsewhere.
A league source said Jordan's preference is to remain with the Clippers, but that he will entertain other offers and wouldn't hesitate to sign elsewhere.
Re-signing Jordan is also seen as an important to the Clippers longterm future because of his close relationship with forward Blake Griffin.
"If we put the pieces around Blake and DeAndre Jordan and Eric Gordon and the rest of the talent we have, that can win at a high level, that's what's going to impress everybody," Olshey said.
"We've made no secret that keeping this core group together and then building upon it, through free agency, through trades, through the draft, is how we're going to have sustainable success."
The Clippers also intend to upgrade at the small forward position this season after getting minimal production from veteran Ryan Gomes and rookie Al-Farouq Aminu last year. Both those players should still be in the mix, but the Clippers are expected to look for an upgrade on either the free agent market or via a trade.
"When you look at our roster in a vacuum, position-by-position, clearly the biggest question mark is how do we increase the production at the small forward position," Olshey said. "We still think Farouq has an incredibly high ceiling. He's a young player learning a new position. He showed flashes of brilliance last year but in order to ensure we're a playoff team this year, that's clearly a position we need to create more production out of.
"We've contacted the agents for all the top small forward candidates and we've taken conversations as far as we can take them within the criteria we're allowed to discuss now."
The top free agent small forwards in this free agent class include Tayshaun Prince, Grant Hill, Caron Butler, Shane Battier and restricted free agents Thaddeus Young and Jeff Green.
The Clippers are approximately $13 million under the projected $58 million salary cap. The question going forward is whether they commit that room to a long-term contract now, or use it on a short-term contract for a veteran player this season so they will be far enough under the cap in 2012 to make a maximum offer to a player in the free agent class which could include Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Deron Williams.