DeAndre Jordan

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


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.

Jimmy Butler wants Mason Plumlee to pay fine after scuffle (video)

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Jimmy Butler and Mason Plumlee got into an altercation in the Bulls’ win over the Trail Blazers last night.

Plumlee lowered his head and tried to barrel through Butler’s chest on a Butler screen. Butler fell and retaliated by putting Plumlee in a leg lock, causing Plumlee to fall.

You might remember a leg lock as what Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova did to Bulls forward Taj Gibson during last year’s playoffs. For all the talk then of Dellavedova being a dirty player, Butler seems particularly aggrieved after getting a technical foul, which comes with a $2,500 fine – the same penalty Dellavedova eventually received. (Plumlee got a flagrant foul.)

Butler, via Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:

“He thought he was playing football for a second there,” Butler said. “Almost had to let the Fort Greene Projects out of me, Brooklyn, you know what I’m saying?”

It was said tongue in cheek considering Gibson was a few feet over and Butler wanted to draw some laughs. Gibson is a Brooklyn native and grew up in the Fort Greene Projects while Butler grew up in Tomball, Texas.

It was no laughing matter when he said he would find a way to approach Plumlee about the fine money, jokingly suggesting he would have his agent email him at “Mr. or something” and made a joke about Mike Dunleavy applauding Plumlee’s act.

Plumlee and Dunleavy are products of Duke University.

“Yeah, he cost me 2,500,” Butler said. “I’m not happy about that. Gonna ask him to pay me back and I’m not playing.”

Is that, or Or is it Dookie?

These are important questions – at least if you’re trying to turn the conversation away from your dirty play and toward your colorful quotes.

Breaking news: Leandro Barbosa dunked


The Warriors became the first team in NBA history to start 16-0.

In the process of getting that record-breaking win over the Lakers, something nearly as historic happened.

Leandro Barbosa dunked.

The 32-year-old Golden State guard last jammed in January 2011.

For a little more perspective, look how Barbosa handled a breakaway layup earlier in the fourth quarter:

You think that man can still slam?

Yes. Yes, he can.

Magic benching Victor Oladipo, starting Channing Frye

Stephen Curry, Victor Oladipo, Channing Frye
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Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Evan Fournier, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic have started eight of the Magic’s 14 games, including the last three.

But after Orlando dropped two straight, Scott Skiles hinted at lineup changes.

The Magic coach will deliver against the Knicks tonight, swapping Channing Frye for Oladipo.

Skiles, via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

“It’s nothing punitive,” Skiles said after the Magic’s shootaround.

“It’s just we feel like we’ve got to try to find a little bit better balance. I’d like Victor to have some more opportunities like he’s had a little bit in the past where he can be on top of the floor and attack and get a little bit more vertical and not only get to the rim but just be a little bit more on the attack but not necessarily start the game that way.”

Here are the offensive/defensive/net ratings for the

  • Former starting lineup: 94.7/111.2/-16.5
  • New starting lineup: 117.2/90.3/+26.8

The new unit has played just 33 minutes in two games, so major sample-size caveats apply. But I like idea of seeing more of what has worked.

I suspect Skiles also wants to keep his players from becoming content. At 6-8 and coming off three straight seasons outside the playoffs, they should have no reason to feel satisfied, but the hard-driving Skiles will be proactive.

If Oladipo – whose defense Skiles values – can get sent to the bench, anyone can.

At some point, the Magic must determine whether Oladipo and Payton – both below-average 3-point shooters – can share a backcourt. But it’s also worth knowing whether Oladipo can excel as a super sub leading bench players.

This switch might help the Magic win now, but at worse, it’ll give them more information for evaluating their young roster. Seems smart all around.

Dwight Howard says he’s cleared to play back-to-backs

Dwight Howard
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The 5-9 Houston Rockets need some wins.

The Houston Rockets have a back-to-back coming up, Sunday against the Knicks then Monday against the Pistons (both on the road). Two teams with quality big men.

Combine those things and you end up with Dwight Howard being re-evaluated by team doctors and getting the training wheels taken off, via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

This, plus a mini training camp the past few days, is part of new coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s effort to turn Houston’s season around.

Houston’s defense is 1.9 points per 100 possessions better this season when Howard is on the court and the Rockets are stronger on the glass. The problem is the offense is 7.8 points per 100 worse with Howard on the court. How much of that can be changed with some roster tweaks — like limiting the time James Harden and Ty Lawson share the court — and how much is due to Howard demanding touches and not doing enough with them we will find out quickly.