Report: Cavs may hold off on contract talks with Luol Deng in hopes of pursuing LeBron James

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When the Cavaliers ridded themselves of an unhappy Andrew Bynum and traded for Luol Deng, it was a short-term decision aimed at helping the team compete for a playoff spot in the miserable Eastern Conference this season.

Deng is an unrestricted free agent this summer, so the deal amounts to nothing more than a half-season rental for the two-time All-Star’s services.

Cleveland can of course discuss a contract extension with Deng that will keep him there for the foreseeable future, but may not do so until some other high-profile free agent options have been exhausted — and that includes checking in with LeBron James.

From Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports:

Luol Deng is open to discussing a contract extension with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but he also understands why the Cavs might want to put off those talks to first focus on trying to sign another All-Star small forward.

LeBron James.

“He’s a great player, why wouldn’t you look at him?” Deng told Yahoo Sports. “If he wants to come back home, that’s great for him and great for this organization. He’s a great player. Why not?

“I’m all right with that. I’m here to do what I can do and be Luol Deng. I don’t really worry about it. I don’t have the mindset that I can control what everyone else thinks. I just do what I can do and try to be the best at what I do.”

Deng also said in the same report he’d be open to discussing a long-term deal to stay with the Cavaliers, although there is something deeply wrong with the team as currently constructed.

Cleveland lost by 44 points in Sacramento on Sunday, and yes, you read that correctly. The Kings rank 27th in the league in defensive efficiency, so they would have trouble beating a D-League team by that much.

A squad featuring Kyrie Irving, Anderson Varejao, and Deng in the starting lineup shouldn’t suffer anywhere close to a fate like this, so it speaks to the problems that have been rumored with chemistry surrounding Irving and his teammates. Mike Brown, who failed in his last stint as head coach with the Lakers, appears to have no control over this Cavaliers team at the moment, either.

Cleveland will of course pursue James in free agency, but he isn’t leaving Miami to come back to a mess like this. If the Cavaliers want to land Deng or any other All-Star free agent this summer, they will need to figure out what the root of the problem is, and act quickly to turn things around.

Rumor: Paul George told former Pacers teammates he wanted to join the Lakers

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Paul George to the Lakers is a capital-T thing.

George is from Southern California, and he keeps indicating his dissatisfaction with the Pacers. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2018. Even Lakers president Magic Johnson is talking about George.

Where do rumors like this originate?

Mitch Lawrence of Sporting News:

A SoCal native, he’s been talking about playing for his hometown team, the Lakers, for a long time. He’s never made his long-term intentions a secret within the Pacers’ locker room, according to former teammates. He wants to wear the purple and gold.

Did George say he dreamed of playing for the Lakers growing up? Did he say it’d be cool to join his boyhood favorite team if the situation presented itself? Or did he say he wanted to get the heck out of Indiana to join the Lakers as soon as possible?

There are so many ways his comments to teammates could get misconstrued as they get passed down in the game of telephone.

But the Lakers threat – to whatever degree it’s real – looms, and it’ll impact how the Pacers handle their offseason.

Jazz call deactivating Jeff Withey, who was accused of domestic violence, ‘strategic basketball-related decision’

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Jazz Center Jeff Withey was accused of domestic violence in a police report filed by his ex-fiancée.

Withey played a small role in Utah’s first two playoff games, but once the accusation over an alleged 2016 incident became public, he hasn’t seen the court. Withey received a DNP-CD in Game 3 against the Clippers, and the Jazz deactivated the center for Game 4 last night.

Ryan McDonald of the Deseret News:

The team called it a “strategic basketball-related decision.”

Withey was always going to see a reduced role with Rudy Gobert returning from injury.

Though Gobert didn’t play in Game 3, the Jazz had two injured players – Gobert and Alec Burks on the inactive list – so Withey was active but never played. But Withey was active for Game 1, which Gobert started healthy before injuring his knee 11 seconds in.

Therefore, deactivating Withey in Game 4 for Joel Bolomboy, a little-used second-round rookie who has yet to play in the postseason, is a curious choice for basketball reasons. It’s almost as if that wasn’t the reason.

Russell Westbrook on Rockets laughing at Andre Roberson missing free throws: ‘Probably the guys that don’t play’

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The Rockets bench made a big production when an intentionally fouled Andre Roberson kept missing free throws in the Thunder’s Game 4 loss to the Rockets yesterday.

Russell Westbrook stuck up for his teammate.

Royce Young of ESPN:

Westbrook:

I didn’t see it. I didn’t see it at all. Probably the guys that don’t play, probably over there the ones laughing, if I had to guess.

Good guess. It appears Montrezl Harrell and Bobby Brown – whose only playing time this series came late in Houston’s blowout Game 1 win – led the jeers.

But the most important thing for the Thunder is Roberson making his free throws. They need him on the court to defend James Harden, which exposes him to hacking. If Westbrook deflecting attention onto the Rockets’ benchwarmers helps Roberson at the line, great. But if not, the Rockets will keep having reasons to laugh.

Magic Johnson winks at bringing Paul George to Lakers

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Paul George-to-the-Lakers rumors have swirled for a while.

New Lakers president Magic Johnson will only fuel them.

Asked how he’d interact with the Pacers star to avoid tampering if they ran into each other, Johnson said on Jimmy Kimmel Live:

We’re going to say hi, because we know each other. You just can’t say, “Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,” even though I’m going to be wink-winking like [blinks repeatedly]. You know what that means, right?

In explaining how he’d avoid tampering, Johnson probably tampered. Accidental tampering appears to be his specialty.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement says team employees can’t permissibly “induce, persuade, or attempt to entice, induce or persuade, any Player who is under contract to, or whose exclusive negotiating rights are held by, any other Member of the Association to enter into negotiations for or relating to his services or negotiate or contract for such services.” But the league arbitrarily enforces tampering, so who knows whether he’ll be punished?

Johnson almost certainly could have gotten away with the hypothetical conversation he laid out. But going on television and describing it — even as fantasy, even not directly to George — could constitute tampering in itself,

If Johnson helps attract George to Los Angeles, it’d well be worth it. At least he’s trying something.