DeAndre Jordan

The Extra Pass: DeAndre Jordan has made a leap, is it enough of one for the Clippers come the playoffs?

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Last summer the Clippers were ready to move on, they wanted Kevin Garnett to come and anchor their defense, play another year or two with Doc Rivers and try to win a title on the other coast. DeAndre Jordan would head back to Boston. But that blew up. Rivers came west but KG ended up in Brooklyn.

That left the enigmatic Jordan as the anchor of Doc Rivers’ defense.

Rivers has since spent the entire summer and regular season building up what Vinny Del Negro spent years tearing down — trying to bring confidence and help grow Jordan’s game. Particularly his defensive game. The most telling evidence is simply that Rivers plays Jordan late in the fourth quarter of games. You also see it in Rivers trying to talk up Jordan as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate — he’s not, Rivers knows it. That’s not the point — what matters is that Jordan hears Rivers say it. DeAndre is the intended audience. What matters is that he believes Rivers believes it.

And it has worked — Jordan has made a leap this season.

According to SportsVU data opponents shoot just 49.3 percent at the rim when Jordan is defending them — he alters and changes shots. That’s a better percentage than Marc Gasol or Tyson Chandler this year. Jordan is getting 2.5 blocks per game.

Jordan is also one of the best rebounders in the game — he pulls down 71.6 percent of the rebounds that come off the rim within 3.5 percent of him, a higher percentage than Kevin Love or Andre Drummond or a host of other elite rebounders.

Jordan’s rotations and timing this season are better, at times still a bit slow at times but improved. His play against the pick-and-roll is much better. What’s more is he is trying to be the quarterback, he is talking and calling out plays and commands. He better understands the game unfolding in front of him and he’s reacting faster.

The Clippers defense this year, inconsistent though it has been, ranks seventh best in the NBA in points allowed per possession (although it has been slightly better with Jordan off the court compared to on it).

But is it enough?

Sometimes it takes a little bit for Jordan to catch on to adjustments and what is happening around him, and the playoffs are all about adjustments. Teams delve deep, tweak their sets to find and exploit mismatches. Jordan is going to get tested.

If, as it appears, the Clippers first round playoff series is against Golden State, Jordan will get a massive test — the Warriors will pull Andrew Bogut out to set picks for Stephen Curry and force Jordan to defend that. Curry can make you look bad no matter what you choose. If the Warriors find something that works they will hammer it. Hard.

All season we have said the Clippers will go as far as their defense takes them — with Chris Paul and the improved game (and confidence) of Blake Griffin the Clippers will score points in bunches. Offense will not be the issue. Rather, they will need to get stops.

That will be all about Jordan.

That’s when we will see how all that time spent in the film room, all those words of encouragement from Rivers, if it all pays off or not.

Steve Kerr: “Not going to rule out” Stephen Curry for Game 2 vs. Blazers

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 27:  Injured Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors reacts on the bench with Shaun Livingston #34 and Anderson Varejao #18 during their game against the Houston Rockets in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at ORACLE Arena on April 27, 2016 in Oakland, California. 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 Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Stephen Curry might be back sooner than expected. It’s been one week since he suffered the sprained MCL in his right knee that led the Warriors to rule him out for at least two weeks, but head coach Steve Kerr said Saturday that there’s at least an outside chance he could play Tuesday in Game 2 of Golden State’s second-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Via ESPN.com’s Marc Stein:

https://twitter.com/ESPNSteinLine/status/726489715398991872

Obviously, the smart money is on Curry not playing this early in his timetable. But the fact that it’s even on the table would seem to indicate that, barring a setback, he’ll be back for at least some of the series, which tips off Sunday.

Carmelo Anthony undecided about playing in Rio Olympics

LAS VEGAS, NV - AUGUST 11:  Carmelo Anthony #20 of the 2015 USA Basketball Men's National Team shoots during a practice session at the Mendenhall Center on August 11, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Since Chris Paul withdrew from this summer’s Olympic team, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James are the only players left from the 2008 team. If they played this summer in Rio de Janeiro, they would have the chance to be the only men’s basketball players ever to win three gold medals. But James is still undecided, and Anthony tells The Vertical‘s Michael Lee that he is also still weighing it:

USA Basketball has provided Anthony his only opportunity to win at a high level since he became a professional. Anthony sounded optimistic in March that his surgically repaired left knee wouldn’t prevent him from going after an unprecedented third gold medal. But since then, Chris Paul withdrew, citing the need for rest, and left Anthony and LeBron James as the only players from the 2008 team remaining in the Team USA selection pool. “It definitely would help,” Anthony said, if James decides to make one more run, but Anthony isn’t close to making a final decision.

“That’s at the top of the sport, of any sport. I think if you have the opportunity to do it, and enjoy it, and take advantage of it, I think you should do it. [The Olympics are] the throne for sports as a whole,” Anthony told The Vertical. “I’m going to take a little more time to think about it. I’m not in a rush. NBA season is still going on, so I’m going to see how I feel physically. Am I ready to take on – I don’t want to say burden, but – that load? If I’m ready, I’ll do it. If not, my body won’t lie to me.”

Anthony turns 32 next month—if he does play, it will undoubtedly be his final run with the national team. But his concerns about rest are valid, even though he was healthier this year than he was last season, when he had season-ending knee surgery. James’ decision will be even more interesting: he cares deeply about his place in history, but he’s had absolutely no time off since 2011, between five straight Finals runs (and likely a sixth) and the 2012 gold-medal run with the Olympic team.

If Anthony ultimately decides not to play, it would open up another spot for a forward, which could go to the likes of Draymond Green, Kawhi Leonard or Jimmy Butler. All of this is worth keeping an eye on as July’s training camp gets closer.

Paul Pierce “50/50” about playing next season

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Paul Pierce may have played his final NBA game. After the Clippers’ season-ending loss to the Trail Blazers on Friday night, the 18-year veteran was noncommittal about his future. Here’s what he said, via CSNNW.com (video above):

For each year the last couple of years, I’ve thought long and hard about walking away from the game. The process will continue this summer as I think long and hard, as I get older in age, talk to my family, see how my body feels. I don’t want to make an emotional decision right now, so I’ll sit down with my family and think about it. It’s just gotta hit you one day. You just never know. You don’t know. Right now, it’s 50/50. I’ll see how I feel when I wake up, if I feel like getting ready for next season. If I don’t feel that feeling, that fire’s not there, it’s going to be tough,

Pierce wasn’t as effective with the Clippers as they’d hoped he would be when they signed him, coming off a big playoffs with the Wizards last season. If he does decide to walk away, he’s a surefire Hall of Famer who will go down as one of the best forwards of his generation.

Report: Ty Lue still has assistant’s contract with Cavs

CLEVELAND, OHIO - APRIL 13: Head coach Tyronn Lue of the Cleveland Cavaliers in action against the Detroit Pistons at Quicken Loans Arena on April 13, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Pistons defeated Cleveland 112-110 in overtime.  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 David Maxwell/Getty Images)
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When the Cavaliers fired David Blatt midseason, they promoted Ty Lue to head coach, without an interim tag attached. The job was his. But apparently, he has yet to sign a new contract that reflects his new title with a pay bump, and is still under contract as an assistant despite being the team’s head coach.

From ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin:

As the Cavaliers prepare to face the Atlanta Hawks in the second round of the playoffs, head coach Tyronn Lue continues to guide the team without having signed a new contract since he took over for David Blatt, multiple sources said this week.

Lue, 38, was promoted from associate head coach to Blatt’s successor on Jan. 22, with Cleveland general manager David Griffin parting ways with Blatt despite the team’s conference-best 30-11 record at the time. Even without a new contract, Lue never had an interim title attached to his position.

According to the report, Lue’s current contract runs through next season, with a team option for the following year, and Lue fully expects to be back. He hasn’t interviewed or shown interest in any of the other head coaching jobs that are open.

Still, until he signs a new contract, this is just another piece of uncertainty hanging over the Cavaliers.