DeAndre Jordan

Doc Rivers says he didn’t want Clippers to trade DeAndre Jordan for Kevin Garnett

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At one point during the prolonged and somewhat messy divorce between Doc Rivers and the Celtics that resulted in the veteran head coach landing in Los Angeles to coach the Clippers, a “side deal” was in place that would have sent DeAndre Jordan to Boston in exchange for Kevin Garnett.

The league doesn’t allow multi-step trades to go down (i.e., if you make this deal then we’ll make this deal immediately afterward), so it ultimately never came to pass. And Rivers sounds thrilled that it didn’t happen.

From Arash Markazi of ESPN Los Angeles:

Doc Rivers said he never wanted the Los Angeles Clippers to trade DeAndre Jordan to the Boston Celtics for Kevin Garnett last June when the two teams were working on a deal for the head coach. …

“[Jordan] is just too young and too gifted to let walk out your door, bottom line. He’s a game changer defensively. He can single-handedly change a game with his defense. There’s five guys, and that number maybe too high, that can do that single-handedly with their size and athleticism and he’s one of them. When you have one of those guys, you want to keep them.”

Rivers has praised the Clippers’ 25-year-old center during the team’s training camp in San Diego. He has called Jordan the team’s defensive captain and a candidate for the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year this season.

Jordan has underachieved in his five years with the Clippers, most notably last season. He started all 82 games, but only averaged 24.5 minutes because he could never get on the floor during the fourth quarter under Vinny Del Negro.

Part of it was Jordan’s defense, but a bigger issue was his free throw shooting — he somehow shot only 38.6 percent from the stripe, making it easy for opposing defenses to choose to foul him in late-game situations.

Rivers is doing everything from a mental standpoint to prepare Jordan for his expanded role next season, even going as far to try to include Jordan as one of the Clippers’ “Big Three,” along with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. The coach is known as being defensive-minded, and has the resume to back up anything he tries with his new team in Los Angeles.

If Jordan is ever going to turn the corner and become a trusted member of the rotation instead of being just a placeholder, the time is now.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.

Isaiah Thomas nutmegs Knicks center Marshall Plumlee (video)

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Isaiah Thomas usually saves his best play for the fourth quarter, but the Celtics guard showed out early with this pass between Marshall Plumlee‘s legs to get Kelly Olynyk a layup.

Thomas uncharacteristically just didn’t have enough late. Though he scored 39 points, he shot just 2-for-9 in the final period, as the Knicks pulled away for a 117-106 win.

Kevin Durant misses dunk so hard, ball flies past halfcourt (video)

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Kevin Durant played great in the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night, but – perhaps fueled by excess emotion – he missed this incredibly emphatic dunk attempt.

Later, Russell Westbrook showed his former teammate how to do it (sparking their apparent conversation):

James Harden outduels Giannis Antetokounmpo as they produce fantastic highlight video

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James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo met in a battle of two of the NBA’s best point guards. (Still weird to say.) The final lines:

  • Harden: 38 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 blocks
  • Antetokounmpo: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks

The winner? Harden and the Rockets, who topped the Bucks, 111-92.

But the real winner? Anyone who gets to watch this highlight video. It just gets better as it goes.