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.

DeMarcus Cousins answers first several Kings-related questions same way (video)

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DeMarcus Cousins had a bitter exit from the Kings, but that won’t be the last they see of him.

Cousins’ Pelicans will host Sacramento tomorrow night.

Not that Cousins rushed to talk about the matchup.

Justin Verrier of ESPN:

Cousins is pretty funny when joking with the media, and his smile is contagious. Just listen to all the laughs Cousins generates as he goes through his shtick.

Bonus points to Cousins for eventually breaking down and providing real answers. Some of his relationships in Sacramento were clearly meaningful to him, and he wanted to acknowledge those — even if he’d prefer just to get past this awkward game and all the talk it invites.

Report: Sweet-shooting 7-footer Lauri Markkanen leaving Arizona for NBA draft

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Lauri Markkanen is 7-foot and made 42% of his 3-pointers this season.

That combination alone will have NBA teams drooling, and the Arizona freshman will capitalize.

Evan Daniels of Scout:

Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen is declaring for the NBA Draft and is expected to sign with an agent, multiple sources told Scout.

Markkanen seems pretty certain to get picked in the lottery, likely in the top 10.

Calling him a good shooter for his height undersells him. It’s not just he shoots so efficiently from deep, it’s that he can generate 3-pointers in so many ways — pick-and-pops, spot-ups, off off-ball screens and even running pick-and-rolls himself. Having the height to shoot over defenders is his most noticeable asset, but don’t undersell his mobility.

Markkanen also finishes well at the rim and offensively rebounds at extremely impressive clip for someone who spends so much time on the perimeter. Those interior skills instill belief he will eventually become a suitable defender.

There are a couple red flags. He’s old for a freshman, turning 20 before the draft. He leaves plenty to be desired defensively, especially due to his lack of strength.

But his size and shooting are tantalizing. That’s plenty for now.

Dwyane Wade wowed by jumping, around-the-back alley-oop pass in McDonald’s All-American Game (video)

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Watch for Collin Sexton in the 2018 NBA draft.

In the meantime, the Alabama commit had all eyes — include Dwyane Wade‘s — on him with this pass in the McDonald’s All-American Game last night.

Carmelo Anthony on shrinking role with Knicks: ‘I see the writing on the wall… I’m at peace with that’

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Carmelo Anthony scored just nine points on 12 shots in the Knicks loss to the Heat last night — well below his season averages of 22 points on 19 shots per game.

Anthony, via Ian Begley of ESPN:

“I see the writing on the wall. I see what it is,” Anthony said late Wednesday night. “I see what they’re trying to do, and it’s just me accepting that. That’s what puts me at peace. Just knowing and understanding how things work. I’m at peace with that.”

Is Anthony talking about just the Knicks’ final dozen games of this season, when they’re clearly interesting in testing less-proven players? Or is he referring to his entire tenure in New York?

Anthony has said he’d consider waiving his no-trade clause if the Knicks want to rebuild, and they’ll reportedly try again to trade him this offseason. Perhaps, this is Anthony indicating he’s warming up to the idea of allowing a trade.

Anthony’s and Kristaps Porzingis‘ timelines are barely compatible, if at all. It’d make sense for the Knicks to go in a different direction.

Could Anthony be at peace with that?