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.

76ers coach Brett Brown says he doesn’t expect rookie Zhaire Smith to play in NBA this season

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Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons.

Zhaire Smith?

A few recent 76ers first-round picks missed their entire first professional season due to injury. Smith, the No. 16 pick in last year’s draft could join them.

Smith has missed the entire season so far with a broken foot then allergic reaction. He just returned to practicing with the 76ers, but maybe not in time to play for them this season.

Keith Pompey of The Inquirer:

If the 76ers clinch their playoff seed before the regular season ends, I wouldn’t be surprised if Smith plays for them. But meaningful minutes seem unlikely.

Philadelphia is trying to win now, and a rookie who entered the NBA relatively raw then missed so much time is unlikely to help.

That said, backup wings James Ennis and Jonathon Simmons aren’t exactly reliable options. If everything breaks right for Smith – essentially the opposite of his season to date – maybe, just maybe, he plays for the 76ers this season.

Warriors vs. Bucks or Raptors betting favorite to be NBA Finals matchup

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Who will we see in the NBA Finals come June?

The West looks cut and dried — if the Warriors are healthy, it’s hard to imagine any other team in that conference giving them too much trouble.

The East? That’s wide open. A good case can be made for Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, or Milwaukee finding their way in. (For a more detailed breakdown, listen to the latest PBT Podcast where Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports and myself break down the East in more detail.)

The bookmakers over at BetOnline put together these odds on potential Finals matchups, and after the first four options the odds get pretty long.

Milwaukee Bucks vs Golden State Warriors 9/2
Toronto Raptors vs Golden State Warriors 9/2
Boston Celtics vs Golden State Warriors 5/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Golden State Warriors 5/1
Indiana Pacers vs Golden State Warriors 28/1
Brooklyn Nets vs Golden State Warriors 33/1
Boston Celtics vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Milwaukee Bucks vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Toronto Raptors vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Charlotte Hornets vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Detroit Pistons vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Miami Heat vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Orlando Magic vs Golden State Warriors 66/1
Washington Wizards vs Golden State Warriors 66/1
Boston Celtics vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Milwaukee Bucks vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Toronto Raptors vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1

A few quick thoughts on that list:

• Interesting that the Sixers and Celtics are just a little behind the Bucks and Raptors in the minds of the bookmakers.

• I don’t know that I’d have Houston in front of Oklahoma City as the second-best option in the West. Not this season. The Thunder have the defense and star power to do playoff damage.

• If you’re thinking about putting money on Washington or Orlando to make the Finals — against anyone — just donate that money to charity instead. That way it will do some good.

Likely No. 1 pick Zion Williamson leaves Duke-North Carolina game with knee injury

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Zion Williamson will probably be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.

He’s a generationally good prospect. The rest of this draft also looks relatively weak.

In fact, Williamson has such a stranglehold on the top pick, some have suggested he sit out the rest of his freshman season.

His injury during Duke’s game against North Carolina tonight will only heighten those calls.

Duke:

Hopefully, Williamson is OK.

And hopefully, the system changes. The NCAA is a cartel in which schools conspire to cap compensation for athletes at a scholarship plus some expenses. In a free market, Williamson would earn far more.

Unfortunately, it probably can’t be both. If Williamson escapes this without major injury, the status quo will likely endure.

But, if this injury even allows him to play again this season, it might be a warning shot that causes him to sit until he can enter the NBA draft.

Again, I hope he’s healthy enough to make that decision for himself.

Jayson Tatum guarantees Celtics will win 2019 NBA championship

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Friday morning, Jayson Tatum guaranteed the U.S. team would beat the World team in the Rising Stars game that night. The U.S. team won.

So, Tatum was asked Saturday morning whether he wanted to guarantee anything for that night. He guaranteed he’d win the Skills Challenge. He won.

So, then ESPN’s Rachel Nichols asked Tatum whether he wants to guarantee anything else. And he really let it ride.

Tatum:

We’re going to win the Finals this year. February 16th, mark it. Jayson Tatum says we’re going to win the Finals this year.

Obviously, Tatum wasn’t going to pick against Boston. But this wasn’t that. He could have easily avoided such a grand proclamation.

Instead, even if he were just caught up in the emotion of an All-Star Saturday Night victory and taking the interview especially seriously, Tatum put a little more attention and pressure on the Celtics.

I’m not convinced that’s what this team needs.