Report: Thibodeau not happy Deng could walk after season

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While everyone around the Bulls plays it down, let’s just say it’s accepted as fact around the rest of the league that coach Tom Thibodeau and Bulls GM Gar Forman (and the rest of the front office) don’t see things the same way. There is naturally some tension in any coach/GM relationship — a coach wants assets he can win with now, a GM has to think cap and budget and three years down the road — but Chicago’s relationship has some real issues.

The latest issue could be Luol Deng.

The Bulls cut off contract extension talks with him and Deng is going to test free agency next summer. Thibodeau sees Deng as central to his system and the team.

So, tension follows. Joe Cowley at the Sun Times adds some color to this.

But at least one source feels that would change if forward Luol Deng is traded or allowed to walk into free agency without an extension next summer.

“Ask Tom how important he thinks Luol is,’’ the source said. “How happy do you think he would be with that decision?…”

“You need rebounding, he’ll give you rebounding,’’ Thibodeau said of Deng late last season. “If he’s not shooting well, he gives you great defense. No matter how the game is going, he’s always going to be there late for you, no matter if it’s pick-and-roll offense, swinging the ball, moving without the ball, making a great random cut from the weak side. He has great impact on winning. You can’t ask anything more of one of your best players.’’

Bulls management has looked at the Heat, the Thunder and other top teams around the league and seemed to be aiming for clearing out some space to add another elite player next to Rose. If Deng walks and they amnesty Carlos Boozer, they Bulls will have the cap space to target the deep crop of free agents this summer expected to include everyone from LeBron James (not likely to land in Chicago) to guys like Danny Granger and Zach Randolph. It’s a deep class, but it’s also a risk in trying to get a guy on the open market. The Bulls could also see what they could get in return for a Deng trade.

Thibodeau also knows he hadn’t seen what this group of players can do healthy in the playoffs — they were just hitting their stride and seemed destined for a showdown with the Heat two seasons ago when Derrick Rose injured his knee. Now this one season will become the test of how good this Bulls rotation will be.

It may also be the one and only time we get to see it. Which isn’t likely to make Thibodeau happy.

Report: Clippers take Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumor ‘very seriously’

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Want to laugh off that Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumor?

The Clippers aren’t joining you.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Clippers should be concerned. Losing Paul would unravel their entire foundation, dropping them from the fringe of championship contention to out of the title picture completely. It could even help usher out Blake Griffin, who will also be an unrestricted free agent this summer. (To be fair, Paul leaving could also help convince Griffin to stay.)

About a month ago, the Clippers reportedly expected Paul to stay. They even reportedly struck a verbal agreement with him to re-sign before that. But they can’t officially sign him until July, and that leaves the door open for him to leave.

The Clippers should be heartened by their advantages – a prime market and a projected max offer of $205 million over five years.

The most another team projects to be able to offer is $152 million over four years, and San Antonio will have a hard time doing that. Even if they trim their roster to Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Danny Green and Tony Parker, the Spurs would still have to shed two of those players to clear max cap space.

So, never say never, but the Clippers’ concern might be rooted more in the dire consequences of Paul leaving rather than the likelihood of it.

Report: Raptors, Magic can’t trade with each other for a year

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The Magic will send the Raptors a 2018 second-round pick for hiring Jeff Weltman, who was Toronto’s general manager.

But that’s not the only consequence of hire.

Yahoo Sports:

The move invoked the NBA provision that Toronto and Orlando are not permitted to trade players with each other until the earlier of May 24, 2018, or the conclusion of the 2017-18 season for either organization, league sources told The Vertical’s Shams Charania.

The NBA made a similar ruling when the Clippers sent the Celtics a first-rounder to hire Doc Rivers, and I don’t like it now, either. It’s needlessly restrictive, preventing talent from flowing to the optimal locations.

At least Orlando isn’t a logical destination for the Raptor most likely to be dealt: Jonas Valanciunas. The Magic already have enough centers with Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo – a lesson that influenced their last trade with Toronto, dealing Serge Ibaka.

2017 NBA playoffs have been historically uncompetitive

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The NBA Finals so many wanted to see – Cavaliers-Warriors III – is here.

At least it will be.

Today is the first of six off days before the 2017, which begin June 1 in Oakland.

The lengthy delay is the product of an underwhelming postseason featuring few competitive series and numerous blowouts.

Golden State swept its way through the West, and Cleveland dropped only one game (to the Celtics in the conference finals) while winning the East. There have been only two Game 7s, but considering the magnitude, neither felt that compelling. Blake Griffin‘s injury undercut the Clippers against the Jazz, and Celtics over Wizards felt inevitable with home teams winning each game of the series. Between, there have been several lackluster games and series.

There have been just 74 playoff games this year – the fewest before the Finals since since the NBA instituted a best-of-seven first round in 2003:

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That’s 74 of a possible 98 games – 76%, the lowest since 1999 and seventh-lowest ever.

Even if the Finals go seven games, it will be the fewest games in a postseason since 2007. If the Finals go five or fewer games, it’ll be the shortest postseason in this playoff format.

And it hasn’t just been quantity. The quality of games has been lacking, too.

Though there were more blowouts last year by nearly any measure, the 2017 postseason’s average margin in pre-Finals games (13.5) is fifth-highest all-time and second-highest since 1959 (behind 2016, 14.2).

Combine the two factors, and these are the drabbest playoffs in nearly 50 years. Here’s each postseason plotted by average margin in pre-Finals games and percentage of possible games pre-Finals:

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This probably just confirms what you’ve seen: The 2017 playoffs have been in a rut.

We’re all counting on the Cavaliers and Warriors to salvage this postseason, but considering how deep the hole is, anything less than an epic Finals probably won’t cut it.

Kyrie Irving crosses over Avery Bradley, hits 3-pointer (video)

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Avery Bradley got around one screen then, thanks to Kyrie Irving‘s excellent ball-handling, lunged at another that wasn’t coming as Irving hit a 3-pointer.