DeAndre Jordan

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Report: Clippers to offer GM job to Thunder assistant Michael Winger

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Doc Rivers no longer has the hammer on trades and player moves in Los Angeles, that has been wisely handed over to Lawrence Frank, the team’s new president of basketball operations. He has Jerry West as a consultant — who will have the owner’s ear — working with him.

Frank now has a new right-hand guy, one of the better respected, up-and-coming front office people in the league, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The LA Clippers have offered Oklahoma City Thunder executive Michael Winger its general manager’s job, league sources told ESPN. A deal could be finalized soon, league sources said…

Winger, 37, has spent the past seven years with Oklahoma City, working closely with Executive Vice President and GM Sam Presti.

ESPN’s Thunder reporter Royce Young chipped in with this.

This is a good hire by the Clippers, bringing a smart young executive from a well-respected organization into the fold to help energize their front office.

This past summer the Clippers lost Chris Paul (traded to Houston, because he was leaving as a free agent otherwise), locked up Blake Griffin long-term, and now have to decide on a future direction. DeAndre Jordan has a player option next summer, do the Clippers want to max him out or move another direction? The Clippers need to inject some younger, more athletic players into their roster and move out of the win-now, trade youth for vets mode Rivers had them in. The Clippers have done a poor job developing young talent and using that to supplement their stars (something teams like the Warriors and Spurs have done well over the years).

Winger should help change that dynamic.

Marshall Plumlee gets camp invite, partially guaranteed contract from Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers have 14 fully guaranteed contracts on their roster, plus a partial guarantee for DeAndre Liggins (who likely is on the roster opening day). They also are pretty much set at center with DeAndre Jordan and Willie Reed (plus when they go small they can play Blake Griffin there, something I wish they’d do a little more).

That said, Doc Rivers — just a coach now — needs bodies for camp, so in comes former Duke star and Knick Marshall Plumlee, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Plumlee played in 21 games for the Knicks last season, logging a total of 190 minutes. He bounced between New York and the D-League Westchester Knicks, when down he averaged 12.3 points and 9.8 rebounds a game.

He’s not making the Clippers’ squad (barring injury), but he could show well and get noticed by other teams. Over the course of a season, there will be a need for bigs as guys go down injured, Plumlee is getting a chance to show how his game has developed. And he makes some money in the process.

NBA schedule is out, here are 15 must-watch games

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I feel like Steve Martin yelling “the new phone books are here” — the NBA schedule for 2017-18 is out.

There is big news here — the NBA has built a lot more rest into the schedule in an attempt to limit DNP-rest games for stars in marquee games. What we learned with the schedule being released is there is not one four-games-in-five-nights stretch in the entire schedule for any team. In the 2014-15 season there were 70 of those, last season there were 20, but the league listened to the players — and their medical staffs — and cut those out. Which should help players be more rested and reduce the number of healthy DNP-Rest games.

There are a lot of quality games on the schedule — in a deep Western conference matchups like the Clippers vs. Nuggets or Trail Blazers vs. Pelicans could have playoff implications even early in the season. That’s why the NBA has given flex scheduling to all the networks, so they can put on games that matter more as we move through the season.

Factoring in returns, rivalries, and big days, here are our 15 games must-watch games this season, the ones you need to set the DVR for… if you still have a DVR. Otherwise, go over to your parents and set theirs, you know they still have one.

Opening night, Oct. 17: Houston Rockets at Golden State Warriors (TNT). This is the first of 40 — 40! — times the Warriors will appear on national television this season. That is almost half their games. Don’t tune into this one just to see the banner go up and JaVale McGee get a ring… actually, you do want to see McGee get a ring. More than that though, tune in to get a first look at the Houston Rockets with Chris Paul and James Harden.

Oct. 26: New Orleans Pelicans at Sacramento Kings (TNT). DeMarcus Cousins makes his first visit to Sacramento since he was traded last season to New Orleans. Kings fans were frustrated with Cousins while he was there, plenty turned on him, and he is going to hear it.

Oct. 27: Denver Nuggets at Atlanta Hawks. Atlanta starts the season with a five-game road trip, then returns home to find Paul Millsap wearing the powder blue of the Denver Nuggets to meet them. The Hawks moved on from Millsap more than he from them, but how will Atlanta fans respond.

Nov. 15: Philadelphia 76ers at Los Angeles Lakers (ESPN). The 76ers and No.1 pick last June Markelle Fultz take on the Lakers and No. 2 pick Lonzo Ball in the first meeting between these two point guards.

Dec. 13: Oklahoma City Thunder at Indiana Pacers (ESPN). Paul George makes his only visit to Indiana this season, the only place the four-time All-Star had played prior to being traded this summer.

Christmas Day, Dec. 25: Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors (ABC). This is the first rematch of the last three NBA Finals during the new season. LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant… and who else will be on LeBron’s team at this point in the season? This is the best team in the West against the team likely to come out of the East — LeBron has been to seven straight Finals for a reason — and that is always worth watching.

Christmas Day, Dec. 25: Houston Rockets at Oklahoma City Thunder (ABC). With all due respect to LeBron and Curry, this is the best game on Christmas Day. James Harden and Chris Paul against Russell Westbrook and Paul George. We know the Rockets will be an impressive offensive team, but the Thunder should have one of the best defenses in the NBA this season. That makes this an interesting clash of styles.

Jan. 15: Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors (TNT). The second and final meeting of the season between these two powerhouse teams is set to highlight the Martin Luther King Jr. Day slate of games.

Jan. 15: Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Clippers (TNT). Chris Paul comes back to Los Angeles to take on the other two parts of Lob City he left behind, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. You can bet DJ is not going to let CP3 just drive the basket without a little physicality.

Feb. 9: Minnesota Timberwolves at Chicago Bulls (ESPN). Jimmy Butler returns to the only city he had played for before being traded this past summer — and he brings with him an impressive team on the rise in Karl-Anthony Towns and the Timberwolves.

Feb. 10: San Antonio Spurs at Golden State Warriors (ABC). This is last year’s Western Conference Finals, and while San Antonio didn’t have a sexy offseason we know they have Kawhi Leonard, and we know they are going to be good. This could well again be the top two teams in the West.

March 11: Cleveland Cavaliers at Los Angeles Lakers (ESPN). LeBron has called Los Angeles home and Tweeted out his love to Magic Johnson, by the time the Cavaliers come to L.A. the “LeBron will be a Laker” rumors will be at a fever pitch. Expect Lakers fans to let him know how much they love him.

March 28: Boston Celtics at Utah Jazz (ESPN). Gordon Hayward is going to get booed as he returns to Utah and the Vivint Smart Home Arena wearing Celtics green after choosing the Celtics over the Jazz last summer.

April 1: Houston Rockets at San Antonio Spurs. These are the two teams in the West with their sights set on knocking off the Warriors, but first they are going to have to get past each other in the playoffs. This could have seeding, or at least statement, implications. Plus, watching Kawhi Leonard guard Harden and Paul is going to be fun.

April 3: Golden State Warriors at Oklahoma City Thunder. At this point in the season, teams like these two who plan to make a deep playoff run are shaking off the long-season duldrums and focusing on a strong finish. Especially if this is a potential playoff matchup (second round) there may be teams looking to make a statement.

April 10: Boston Celtics at Washington Wizards. In the final week of the NBA season, two teams looking to climb the ladder and establish themselves near or at the top of the Eastern Conference face off. Plus, John Wall vs. Isaiah Thomas is always a show.

Stan Van Gundy wants Andre Drummond to defend like DeAndre Jordan

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With an 8-foot wingspan and the ability to jump out of the building, Andre Drummond has the tools to be an elite NBA defender. He’s not. Drummond is improving slowly on defense, better recognizing how to handle pick-and-roll angles and where to be for help, but he has a ways to go.

Stan Van Gundy has a model for him — DeAndre Jordan.

Here is what Van Gundy told the official Pistons’ website.

“The step, to me, for Andre is to do a little bit of what DeAndre Jordan does and dominate the game at the defensive end of the floor. Become that All-Defense type of guy. Because he’s already a historically great rebounder and to add to that becoming a great defender and build his game from there and everything to be built around the basket – his pick and rolls, going to the rim, running the floor, all of that.”

Drummond is the best rebounder in the NBA right now, and a good pick-and-roll big man. However, last season 27 percent of his possessions came in the post and he scored just 0.73 points per possessions on those plays, struggling when he faces up. He is efficient when he can get to the rim, but he did that less last season.  Offensively the Pistons need to be better as a team (and that is more about shooting around Drummond than the big man himself). Drummond’s offseason surgery to remove a nasal blockage could help his endurance and get him putting up more 20-10 nights.

Van Gundy is right, however, the big stride for Drummond needs to be defensive. He can and should be elite. The Pistons were a top 10 defense last season, but if the goal is a return to the playoffs — and for Drummond to return to the All-Star Game — he needs to be a defensive force. Van Gundy has laid out the challenge, we’ll see if he can live up to it.

Report: Pistons interested in Kyrie Irving, but is there a deal to be had?

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Most of the teams in the NBA are going to call up the Cleveland Cavaliers and at least inquire about the availability of Kyrie Irving. Call it due diligence. Not all will be serious suitors, but they will at least call.

Detroit might be more serious than most. They have a strong inside game with Andre Drummond (who they have listened to trade offers for), but Reggie Jackson has not worked out at the point so far as Stan Van Gundy envisioned, and Irving would vault them up into the ranks of more interesting teams in the East. There is interest, reports Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press.

A person with knowledge of the Pistons’ front office told the Free Press recently that the organization is interested in the four-time NBA All-Star, who nailed the winning shot to clinch the 2016 NBA title for the Cavs…

And team president and coach Stan Van Gundy isn’t even trying to hide Pistons interest, telling the team website earlier this week “the Pistons have had some level of conversation with the Cavs.”

Van Gundy may be serious about trying, but either way, this leak looks good to the fan base, “see, we’re trying.”

The problem for Detroit — like with every team trying to get involved with Cleveland on an Irving deal — is finding a way to make it work.

Cleveland’s top priority in a deal is getting back a young, elite, blue-chip player on a rookie contract. Stanley Johnson is nice, but he does not qualify. The Cavaliers also want veterans who can help them win now, and maybe the only Piston who qualifies there is Andre Drummond (who makes more than Irving right now). There is no deal between the two teams directly that makes sense.

Which means bringing in a third team, and that tends to be where things fall apart. Ellis in the Free Press talks about a three-way deal with the Clippers that came up on ESPN where:

The Pistons received: Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson.
The Clippers received: Andre Drummond, Stanley Johnson and a future Pistons first-round pick.
The Cavaliers received: DeAndre Jordan and Reggie Jackson.

The Cavaliers do not get the young player they want — call it LeBron James leaves insurance — in this trade. I’m not sure they do it. The Clippers might be willing to swap out centers who can’t hit free throws because they could lose DeAndre Jordan next summer where Drummond is locked up. But the Pistons would surrender Drummond, Johnson, Jackson and a future first-round pick to get Irving and Thompson, is that a good deal for them? I’m not sold.

Bottom line, the Pistons may be interested, but it’s hard to see how they pull off a deal. Something to watch, but don’t expect anything coming soon.