Will Cavaliers make the playoffs after trading for Luol Deng?

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The deal between the Bulls and the Cavaliers that went down Monday night was all about the long-term for Chicago, and more about this season in Cleveland.

Luol Deng will be a free agent this summer, and after reportedly turning down a contract extension worth $30 million over three years, it was clear he was going to seek more than the Bulls would offer. So, rather than lose him without compensation and pay an exorbitant amount in payroll and luxury taxes for what is essentially a lost season, the Bulls traded him for a future draft pick and a player in Andrew Bynum who they will waive to get under the tax line this season.

Cleveland, though, has other ideas. The franchise is hoping to make the playoffs, partly to impress upon Kyrie Irving that it is indeed committed to winning in the immediate future so that Irving doesn’t try to bolt the city when he has the chance at the end of the 2015 season (if the sides don’t agree to an extension he would be a restricted free agent, other teams could make offers but the Cavaliers would have the right to match it). Cleveland wants to keep its star and face of the franchise happy.

That was the reason for taking the chance on Bynum in the offseason, and adding players like Jarrett Jack and Earl Clark in free agency, both of whom were coming off of above average seasons. It is also the reason for acquiring Deng, who may be no more than a half-season rental since it’s unclear if the team will want to pay him his open market value once the summer is upon us.

But does simply adding Deng get Cleveland to the playoffs?

There are too many teams ahead of the Cavaliers in the standings right now to say that it’s likely, but it improves the squad enough to where they have a very legitimate chance.

Cleveland sits just three games out of eighth in the dreadful Eastern Conference, but its looking up at New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Brooklyn right now before we even get to Detroit, who currently occupies that eighth spot. The Cavs could certainly acquire enough wins to get there with Deng in the fold, but it will take more consistent efforts from Irving, some maturation in the game of Dion Waiters, and an improvement in team defense that’s essentially been middle-of-the-road this season, which is unacceptable given the low level of competition in the East.

But teams ahead of Cleveland aren’t going to go down without a fight. Despite the starts that have been far below expectations, the Knicks and Nets are both likely to see a spike in wins once they can get some lineup consistency in place. The Sixers are coming together and are proving they can beat good teams, but it’s possible they trade Thaddeus Young or Evan Turner in deadline deals to continue the rebuilding process. The Celtics will add Rajon Rondo to their squad soon, and Boston has been better than expected, as well.

Teams like Detroit, Charlotte, and now Chicago are vulnerable, however, and one or more could easily fall out of playoff contention. If the Cavaliers come together quickly with Deng in place, a playoff spot — the team’s short-term goal for this season — can certainly be realized.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens said early September tests will show if Thomas ready for camp

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Isaiah Thomas said he expects to be ready for the Celtics’ training camp next month. The guard’s All-NBA season came to an early end in the playoffs when he aggravated a labral tear in his right hip initially suffered back in March. At least the injury did not require surgery.

Players are also about the worst judges of when they will recover from an injury. They pretty much all think they are invincible and will be healthy faster than doctors predict.

Coaches tend to be more pragmatic. Take Boston’s Brad Stevens, who told Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that tests in a couple of weeks will show if Thomas is ready for camp.

“He has another follow-up and another scan in the early part of September. Obviously, it’s been a lot of appropriate rest, a lot of rehab. There have been some good strides here certainly in the last month or few weeks, but we’re not going to know that until after that early September timeframe.”

The Celtics are understandably going to be cautious with Thomas, while Thomas wants to prove he is healthy and has no ill effects from the injury as he enters a contract year (one where he expects to get PAID). Also, the Celtics could use him in camp as they start to figure out how he and Gordon Hayward can share playmaking duties.

Still, from the outset, the timelines have suggested he should be ready for camp in late September. Coaches are just cautious on these things by nature.

Allen Iverson predicts LeBron James will win MVP

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LeBron James has four NBA MVP trophies in his case. (Does he keep that case in his home in Akron or the one in Los Angeles… that’s a question for another day.) Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) and Michael Jordan (five) have more.

Could LeBron James add a fifth to his case this season?

Allen Iverson said yes at last weekend’s Big3 playoffs in Seattle.

LeBron was fourth in preseason odds to win the MVP at 15/2, behind Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.

To me, LeBron could be a good bet. If/when Kyrie Irving is traded, the chances of LeBron getting the MVP go up. If LeBron puts up impressive numbers (again) and leads a depleted Cavaliers team to a top two seed in the East, he is certainly going to be in consideration. And should be.

It’s a long season, and personally, I think you need to get midway through the season before seriously considering the year-end awards. But history says LeBron will be in the mix, and Allen Iverson could be proven prophetic.

Phoenix Suns with quality solar eclipse joke on Twitter

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With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.

There were a couple of good ones, however.

Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.

One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.

Report: Other small-market teams championing Pacers’ tampering allegation against Lakers

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The NBA, at the Pacers’ request, is investigating whether the Lakers tampered by making impressible contact with Paul George.

Bob Kravitz of WTHR

In fact, there’s word that other small- and mid-market team officials have reached out to the Pacers and told them, “Good for you. Fight the good fight.”

Small-market teams whine too much about the disadvantages they face, but tampering isn’t really a market-size issue. Remember, under Mitch Kupchak, the Lakers were known as the only team that didn’t tamper.

The Lakers have advantages because George is from the area, and Los Angeles offers immense marketability. That’d be true whether or not they contacted George or his agent before he officially became a free agent.

I understand the desire to take down the big, bad Lakers – especially now that they appear poised to become truly big and bad again. But it’s hard to find a team that can cast a stone at them from anywhere other than a glass house.