Where in the world is DeAndre Jordan?

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Last summer, the Golden State Warriors were looking for a big man to put next to David Lee and forced the Clippers hand — would the Clippers match a four year, $48.2 million contract offer for DeAndre Jordan? How badly did the Clippers want to keep Jordan next to Blake Griffin?

Badly enough to match the cash.

Except now in the playoffs when the the game was on the line Jordan isn’t next to Griffin. He’s sitting. Jordan played no minutes in the fourth quarter of Game 6. It was the same in the fourth quarter and overtime of Game 5. Despite being up against a team with one of the biggest front lines in the Association, Jordan sits and veteran Reggie Evans gets the run.

The energy he brings and the spotlight of the playoffs has turned Evans into a cult hero among Clippers fans. They were chanting his name in the fourth quarter Friday night.

By contrast, Jordan seems a ghost.

He had 7 points and 4 rebounds in 18 minutes of play in Game 6. Outside of finishing a crowd-igniting dunk off a Blake Griffin hustle play in the third quarter it’s hard to think of how Jordan impacted the game. It’s easy to think of how Evans did, for better and worse.

For the series Jordan is averaging 4.2 points and 4.3 rebounds a game. Chris Paul is out rebounding Jordan. His PER dropped from an above average 16.4 in the season to 10.4 in the playoffs — the kind of number that has you sitting on the bench late. He talked about it to the L.A. Times.

“I’m just not playing well,” Jordan said. “I’m just not getting the job done. It isn’t like I’m not trying. I know I have to do a better job. I’m trying.”

Coach Vinny Del Negro covers for him — “I just thought Reggie was playing well” — but the holes in Jordan’s game are too big at this point in the playoffs. His inconsistent offense (unless he gets dunks), and leaving his defensive and rebounding responsibilities to chase blocks are the kind of things that just can’t happen in the playoffs. Del Negro said Jordan needs to just be physical and get leverage against the big Memphis front line if he wants to stay on the court more. He’s not banging with Memphis

This is not to knock Jordan (well, completely), he’s 23, in his fourth NBA season and first playoffs. There is a whole lot of room for growth from these experiences. If he works at it the lessons learned here he could have a big role in the Clippers playoff run next year.

Rather, this is a cautionary parable about team building. The Clippers paid a steep price to keep Jordan and they will have him for a couple more years at least. In the run up to this season it seemed keeping Jordan as part of the core of this team was, if not the right move, a defensable move. But it’s hard to predict how a player will develop (or will not develop, particularly off an odd lockout summer). And the playoffs are not about teaching moments.

This summer will tell the tale with Jordan when he returns. The Clippers are taking steps forward with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. We’ll see if Jordan can take the steps needed along with them.

Bob Myers says he initially told DeMarcus Cousins’ agent Warriors couldn’t afford center

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If the Warriors signed someone to a salary greater than the $5,337,000 taxpayer mid-level exception or acquired someone in a sign-and-trade, they would have been hard-capped at $129,817,000 this season.

That was obviously untenable for Golden State with its star-studded roster.

So, the idea of the Warriors adding DeMarcus Cousins seemed far-fetched – even to Golden State general manager Bob Myers.

Myers, as transcribed by Drew Shiller of NBC Sports Bay Area:

“It was early in the morning — I spoke to his agent. We had been preserving our taxpayer mid-level exception for somebody that might fall through the cracks and not get paid in a very tight free agency market,” Myers explained to Greg Papa and Bonta Hill on 95.7 The Game. “But mostly we were thinking wings. I figured if something like that were to happen it would happen July 8th, 9th, 10th.

“But we got the call and I just said, ‘Look. We don’t have anything more,’ because we’ve talked about other high-level free agents and the thought from their agent was, ‘Can you do a sign-and-trade? Can you get to a bigger number?’ And I kind of said, ‘Look, our roster is what it is. To move that many pieces around, to create $10 million in room, or $15 (million), it’s just prohibitive, I don’t want to waste your time.’

“So I thought that’s where the conversation was going … and I said to him, ‘We don’t have the money that you’re probably commanding out there.’ And this is the moment it became real — he said, ‘We understand what you have.’ And I said, ‘Well we only have the taxpayer mid-level.’ And then when he said, ‘I know,’ that’s when I knew it was real.

“They were very serious about it and they never really wavered.”

We’ve seen free agency from Cousins’ perspective. It’s interesting to blend Golden State’s into the story.

The Warriors are always eying stars. Their ambition might be unmatched. That not even they forecasted the possibility of signing Cousins – who accepted the taxpayer mid-level exception – speaks to just how much colder than expected his market was.

DeAndre Ayton draws himself dunking on Joel Embiid on trading card (photo)

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Joel Embiid issued a warning to pundits after the Suns drafted Deandre Ayton No. 1 overall: “Don’t compare Ayton to me either… I play DEFENSE.”

Ayton envisioned a response to the 76ers star while drawing on a trading card:

Embiid:

I’m impressed with Ayton’s artistic skills.

I’d be even more impressed if he dunks on Embiid, who does play quality defense – so far a hole in Ayton’s game.

Dwight Howard’s trainer: ‘He wants to evolve into Anthony Davis, into Kevin Durant, but his own version of that’

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In 2015, Dwight Howard said he wanted to play 20 seasons in the NBA. He also later admitted he considered retiring the same year.

After that career crossroads, Howard is back on the longevity track.

Entering his 15th season, the 32-year-old Wizards center is focused on getting into shape and developing his game.

Justin Zormelo, via Candace Buckner of The Washington Post:

“He wants to evolve into Anthony Davis, into Kevin Durant,” Zormelo says, “but his own version of that.”

This sounds silly at first. Durant and Davis are far more skilled than Howard. But those superstars provide reasonable goals for Howard.

Durant – who has expanded his game the other way, going outside to inside – shows how to blend playing different styles. Davis provides an example of how to work off the ball as a modern big man.

Howard shouldn’t want to lose his strengths as an elite rebounder and interior defender, but he can move in the direction of Durant and Davis.

After getting pretty big with the Hawks, Howard slimmed down with the Hornets and excelled in transition. He also improved significantly as a ball-handler, allowing him to put even more pressure on the defense in advantage situations and attack with face-ups.

Howard hasn’t shown proficiency as an outside shooter, but that could be his next step. The concern: Howard falls in love with shooting the way he did with post-ups, and he takes too many inefficient shots.

But there’s still something encouraging about someone working so hard to improve this far into his career.

Of course, on-court improvement won’t be enough for Howard. He has quietly produced or near star level in Atlanta and Charlotte. The problems came in the locker room. Howard’s attitude must improve, too.

Maybe it’ll all come together for him, and he’ll thrive through the rest of his 30s. He’s saying all the right things.

But we’ve also been here before.

Carmelo Anthony writes thank-you note to Oklahoma City: ‘I wanted nothing more than to make it work here’

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After last season, Carmelo Anthony summed up his time with the Thunder: “It wasn’t no strategy to me being here.” He waived his no-trade clause to facilitate a trade to and buyout from the Hawks, allowing him to join the Rockets – his preferred destination ever since his time with the Knicks was ending.

But he’s leaving Oklahoma City emphasizing the positive.

Erik Horne of The Oklahoman:

This is a nice letter, especially for someone who was there only one year. Thunder fans are extremely supportive, and I believe Anthony truly wanted it to work in Oklahoma City. He changed his game plenty to complement Russell Westbrook and Paul George.

It just wasn’t enough.

Of course, there’s more to the story. That’s self-evident in Anthony choosing to leave the Thunder rather than trying to solve their problems next season in a less-rushed situation.

But this isn’t an analysis of Anthony’s Oklahoma City tenure. It’s a thank-you note that seems pretty genuine and heartfelt – right until it’s signed “STAYME7o,” which is par for the course for Anthony.