Tyrus Thomas a popular trade target, regardless of fit

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Thumbnail image for nba_thomas_250.jpgThe allure of Tyrus Thomas is obvious: when Thomas is active and engaged, he can seriously impact games with his defense and lead a one-man assault on the rim on offense. He has the unique package of length, quickness, size, and athleticism necessary to be a versatile all-purpose defender. But something gets lost between the idea of Tyrus Thomas in theory and the actual Tyrus Thomas in practice. He hasn’t quite figured out how to contribute in meaningful ways on a nightly basis, but through no fault of his physical limitations. The real game for Thomas rests solely between his ears, and once he figures that out (supposing he eventually does)? Stock up on canned goods, buy up all the bottled water you can, and head down into the shelter.

But Tyrus’ incredible doesn’t necessarily make him a great fit in any frontcourt. Case in point? The Minnesota Timberwolves, who, despite the fact that Thomas would be paired with either Kevin Love or Al Jefferson, still are making a run at acquiring the Bulls forward. From Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski:

Several league executives suggested the Minnesota Timberwolves could be a sleeper for him. Minnesota general manager David Kahn has been researching Thomas and has plenty of assets – three 2010 first-round picks, multiple second-rounders and a host of expiring contracts – to make it happen. Once the Timberwolves trade Al Jefferson this summer, they can re-sign Thomas and plug him into the frontline with Kevin Love. Jefferson is expected to be traded for a talented, young small forward. Trading for Thomas would be a way to get a long, athletic power forward with upside, and the Timberwolves could easily re-sign him this summer.

Trading for Thomas would hardly seem like a horrible move for the Wolves at present, but I’m not sure that having Tyrus and Kevin Love as the starting bigs is anything resembling an effective strategy. Love is an absolutely terrific player, but has neither the size nor mobility to defend talented offensive bigs. Thomas may be able to provide excellent help-side defense if he pulls it together, but he’s far too thin to be the team’s go-to post defender. So the Wolves would essentially be left with two talented big men who can provide very different things…only they wouldn’t seem to really be capable of guarding anyone. Love will do his best down low against traditional bigs, and ultimately fall short; Thomas will float in and out of games and gamble defensively. Young team like Minnesota should focus on acquiring young talent/assets, and that part of the rumor is sound. But in terms of clearing out Al Jefferson in favor of a Thomas-Love front line? Color me pessimistic.

Giannis Antetokounmpo announces he will not play for Greece in Eurobasket

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Giannis Antetokounmpo said had big plans to play for the Greek national team this summer, taking his country back to the top of the European ladder at EuroBasket (they had won the tournament a dozen years ago).

Instead, a sore knee will keep the Greek Freak out of EuroBasket. He made the announcement on his Facebook page.

Antetokounmpo had missed all but one of Greece’s early EuroBasket tune-ups due to a sore knee. That, understandably, concerned the Bucks, especially with his four-year, $100 million contract extension about to kick in next season.

Antetokounmpo is in China promoting shoes, but said he on Facebook he took a physical while there and was not able to complete the exercises due to pain.

“It is by far the biggest disappointment in my career. I must deal with the problem,” Antetokounmpo said in the Facebook post (written in Greek).

Within hours of the post going up, the Greek basketball federation released a statement slamming the Bucks and Antetokounmpo, saying they had done an MRI of his knee and found no damage.

“The simultaneous report by the Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo himself, by phone and social media from faraway China, and not by the appropriate official manner, of his inability to join the national men’s team saddens us … but is not surprising… A series of indications … had convinced us of the existence of an organized and well-staged plan by (the Bucks), with the full knowledge if not encouragement of the NBA that put the athlete on the spot and forced him to announce today that he is no longer part of the men’s national team.”

Great, just what the world needs, another conspiracy theory.

While NBA teams generally are not huge fans of their stars playing in national team tournaments (due to the injury risk), teams cannot stop a healthy player from playing. Antetokounmpo said this was his decision because he is in pain and has to think about the upcoming NBA season.

Whatever the Greek Federation believes internally, slamming the player and his team publicly like this is one good way to make sure he will not want to play for them in the future. He’s got knee pain, they are saying “you’re fine, walk it off, ” and that must have Antetokounmpo and the people around him wondering if the Greek Federation has his best interests — or theirs — at heart.

Akron store already selling “Stay Home 23” shirts, hats as LeBron decision looms

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We’ve seen this movie before.

There is all sorts of buzz around the league that LeBron James has one foot out the door in Cleveland. While people around LeBron denied he the rumor he is “100 percent” leaving, good luck finding any league source who thinks he is staying put next summer. Nothing is set in stone, his options — including staying — remain open, but we’ve all been down this road before.

The hometown fans are going to do their part to urge LeBron to stay.

Fan sentiment has some pull with LeBron (he came back to win the city a title). However, what matters more is a sense of a plan to keep the Cavaliers as title contenders for the coming years — and that is more than just Dan Gilbert paying the tax. The Cavs did nothing this summer that got them closer to beating Golden State, and while they swung for the fences with Paul George, what they really needed was wing defenders and athletes, and they didn’t get those either. Luc Mbah a Moute signed a one-year deal for the minimum somewhere else. Instead, Cleveland overpaid Kyle Korver.

Despite all that, the Cavs remain the team to beat in the East. If Cleveland gets to the Finals — LeBron’s eighth in a row — and they win or make it close, he may see staying as his best option. A season can be a lifetime in the NBA in terms of shifting attitudes. Still, I wouldn’t bet the rent on it.

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.

Kawhi Leonard is smiling, and that confuses Manu Ginobili (PHOTO)

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Much like Kevin Durant, it appears that Kawhi Leonard is having a great summer.

In fact, this appears to be the Summer of Kawhi Smiling. Which, according to one of his longtime teammates, is a bit confusing.

When the Spurs posted a photo of Leonard with a big old grin on his face to their Twitter feed recently, San Antonio legend Manu Ginobili responded asking the team whether something was up.

Specifically, Ginobili said that he had seen more photos of Leonard smiling in the past two days then he had in six seasons as a teammate.

Via Twitter:

You can leave an anonymous tip about why Kawhi Leonard is smiling so much by contacting the produce manager at your local H-E-B.