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.

Kings co-owner Shaq: Vivek Ranadivé told me George Karl would coach rest of season

Shaquille O'Neal
AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
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Kings general manager Vlade Divac said keeping George Karl as coach was right move “for now.”

How long is “for now”?

Shaquille O’Neal, a Kings minority owner, shares insight.

Sam Amick of USA Today:

This would mean a little more if Vivek Ranadivé weren’t prone to wild swings. Remember, the Kings said Tyrone Corbin would finish last season as coach before firing him for Karl.

Divac also said in November that Karl would coach the rest of the season, and that came up for debate fewer than three months later.

Shaq’s revelation is as likely to embarrass the Kings in a few weeks as it is to signal Karl’s job security.

Chauncey Billups explains why not every player wants to go home

Dallas Mavericks v Denver Nuggets
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LeBron James did it and shook up the NBA — he returned home to Cleveland. That has led to fantasies other players want to do the same thing: Kevin Durant back to Washington D.C.; DeMar DeRozan or Russell Westbrook back to Los Angeles; Blake Griffin back to Oklahoma. And the list goes on.

Not every player wants to do it.

Chauncey Billups did. Billups is a Denver guy who returned to play for the Nuggets — he gets his number retired Wednesday night in Detroit, a much-deserved honor — but in a letter to his young self at the Players’ Tribune Wednesday he explained that going home is fraught with peril.

“But in reality, playing at home as a 23-year-old professional is going to be less blessing and more curse. (There’s perception, again, for you.) It’s as simple as this: you’re just not going to be ready for Denver to be Your City. You’re going to think you’re ready — and they are too — but, trust me, you won’t be. You’re still going to be so young. You’re still going to be hanging out with your boys, doing your old thing. There are going to be those … hometown distractions. And those distractions will add up.”

“And you have to understand, Chaunce: It’s not just that you made it. It’s that your whole neighborhoodis going to feel like they made it. All of Park Hill is going to feel like they made it. And don’t get me wrong — that’s special. But at the wrong age, it can also be tough. It can be a lot to handle. And you’re going to be at that wrong age. You’re not going to be mature enough yet, or developed enough yet, to take on that mix of environments, those responsibilities, that role.

“You’re not going to be ready to lead.”

There are plenty of guys around the NBA who understand those distractions and how those can get in the way of off-season workouts, of time spent shoring up a weakness or developing a new shot, and how during the season they can be another thing that wears the body down.

Some guys can handle it. Some can’t.

Go read the entire letter from Billups. He talks about getting traded from the Celtics his rookie season, about playing for Mike D’Antoni, about how very rarely do veterans want to mentor younger players because they are fighting for the same piece of the pie.  Billups is honest.

And it’s great that Detroit is rewarding him as they should.

Did Marcus Thornton steal free throws from Rockets teammate Clint Capela?

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Leandro Barbosa – guarding Marcus Thornton and fighting through a Clint Capela screen – was called for a foul in the first quarter of last night’s Warriors-Rockets game.

Thornton went to the line.

Should he have? Or should Capela have?

Perhaps, Thornton and Barbosa tangled, but it certainly appeared the contact primarily occurred between Barbosa and Capela. It looks like Barbosa tries to ram through Capela.

It also appears Capela thought he drew the foul. Watch him step toward the line before seeing Thornton there and taking his spot along the paint.

So, why would Thornton step in? He’s making 89% of his free throws to Capela’s 40%.

I’m honestly surprised players don’t try this maneuver more often. Refs have so much to keep track of. The worst consequence would be the refs shooing away Thornton and bringing Capela to the line.

Thornton made both free throws, but it didn’t matter. Houston was playing Golden State, which rolled to a victory.

Kanye West apologizes to Michael Jordan

performs at the 2015 iHeartRadio Music Festival at MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 18, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images for iHeartMedia
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Kanye West – when he isn’t tweeting to invalidate the claims of dozens of women on nothing more than his own suppositions – is tweeting to Michael Jordan

Mark Parker is CEO of Nike, a company that collaborated with West on the Air Yeezy before an unhappy West bolted for Adidas. Jordan, of course, is a Nike ally and known for the Jumpman logo on his brand.

That’s why Kanye rapped in “Facts:”

Yeezy, Yeezy, Yeezy just jumped over Jumpman

Yeezy, Yeezy, Yeezy just jumped over Jumpman

We bring you the important news.

(hat tip: Jovan Buha of Fox Sports)