Luol Deng says he’d love to play his whole career in Chicago

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Luol Deng is a two-time All-Star member of the Chicago Bulls, and an important part of what the team does on both ends of the floor on a nightly basis.

But he’s in the final year of his contract, and the Bulls have been unwilling to discuss an extension to this point, meaning that Deng is playing in a contract year and could be gone once the season is over as he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

We’ve heard throughout the process that Deng would prefer to remain in Chicago, and he reiterated those comments before Wednesday night’s game against the Pacers.

From ESPN Chicago:

“I definitely want to stay here,” Deng said Wednesday at the morning shootaround before the Bulls’ game at Indiana. “I would love to play here my whole career.”

Despite his desire, Deng understands he may not get his wish. With the Bulls refusing to discuss an extension with Deng this summer, the small forward will become a free agent in 2014. …

“I’ve seen players in the past who wanted to stay with their team and it didn’t work out,” said Deng, who has played only for the Bulls since being drafted by Phoenix and traded to Chicago on a draft-night deal in 2004. “At the end of the day, I can’t control that.”

What Deng is saying is only true to a certain extent, but the sentiment is understandable.

If he were to agree to stay in Chicago for a contract less than what he could earn elsewhere on the open market, there’s a pretty solid chance that the organization would welcome him back with open arms.

But if Deng is seeking another payday in the neighborhood of the max deal he may be able to receive by signing elsewhere, then he’s right — the chances of staying with the Bulls at that point begin to diminish fairly rapidly.

Deng could choose to sign a long-term contract below market value to stay in Chicago if that’s truly what he wanted to do. But money talks, as do players’ actions, so we’ll see just how true these comments ring when Deng becomes a free agent at the end of the season.

Josh Jackson’s first pitch is… just a bit outside

Associated Press
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Josh Jackson is not going Bo Jackson on us and playing baseball in the offseason.

The highly-rated forward out of Kansas who was the No. 4 pick of the Phoenix Suns was invited to throw out the first pitch before Friday night’s Diamondbacks game.

To quote Bob Uecker, he was just a bit outside. He tried the corner and missed.

Lonzo Ball was able to make his first pitch, ergo, he will turn out to be a much better NBA player. Obviously, these skills correlate.

Report: Re-signing Nerlens Noel Mavericks’ top off-season priority

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This is a Mark Cuban owned team, you don’t think the Mavericks are going to make a serious run at a free agent come July 1? Pelicans’ point guard Jrue Holiday has long been known to be a target, but there will be others.

But keeping their new core together, including restricted free agent Nerlens Noel, is the top priority, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Rumors like this are out there in part from Dallas to hope to chill the market for Noel. While he could be a defensive force who provides some scoring around the rim, with Noel’s injury history they may be able to get him at less than max money — because if he’s at the max the Mavericks are flirting with the luxury tax (and Cuban isn’t going to want to pay the tax for a borderline playoff team at best).

What Dallas fears is what Brooklyn did last season to Allen Crabbe in Portland and Tyler Johnson in Miami — some team to come in with a max or near-max offer sheet that drives up the price. Dallas will match, they will keep the young core together, it just gets more expensive.

Next season in Dallas will be a deserved big farewell to Dirk Nowitzki. He will be the focus, but behind him Dallas will try to be building for the future. They made the trade deadline move to make sure Noel is a part of that, the only question now is how much it costs them.

Magic Johnson on drafting Lonzo Ball: “what I needed was a leader”

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Nobody, not even his critics with the Lakers, question that D'Angelo Russell had talent. What they questioned from the start was his work ethic and maturity. I was told by sources with the team he often was the last one to team meetings, often one of the first out of the gym, and the whole Nick Young thing spoke to the maturity question. Byron Scott took a lot of heat as Lakers’ coach for benching him, and Scott’s communication skills were lacking, but he had reasons. Russell also just 21 and maybe he finds his way, but the Lakers weren’t willing to wait anymore.

Which is why the Lakers were willing to move him to Brooklyn in the Brook Lopez trade, and why the Lakers went after Lonzo Ball in the draft, Magic Johnson said, via Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

Is Lonzo Ball a leader? Only time will tell, he has the potential.

Will players want to play with him? Yes, if the passing skills he showed in college transfer to the NBA. If guys know they will get the rock if they run/cut, then they will do just that. It’s some simple B. F. Skinner stuff here — if players are rewarded they will keep doing it. Get them the rock in transition and they will get out there every time.

Ball has flaws in his game, there are certainly questions about his defense, and how that awkward shot translates remains to be seen (it goes in but his time to get it off will decrease at the NBA level)? Will he be a scoring threat in the half-court? He’s got work to do. But answer those questions and the Lakers may have the key piece to help anchor a franchise he’s been looking for.

Sacramento Kings waive guard Arron Afflalo

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) The Sacramento Kings have waived guard Arron Afflalo one year after signing him as a free agent.

The Kings cut ties with Afflalo on Friday before his entire $12.5 million contract for 2017-18 would become guaranteed. Afflalo will get $1.5 million instead.

Afflalo averaged 8.4 points and 2 rebounds in 61 games this past season for Sacramento. He has averaged 11.3 points per game in his 10-year career.