Luol Deng, Joakim Noah

Luol Deng and Joakim Noah really want to win tonight’s Bulls-Cavaliers game


Luol Deng initially tried to dismiss first matchup against his former team – Bulls-Cavaliers at 7 p.m. tonight – as just another game.

Eventually, he got into the spirit, though.

Deng, via Mary Schmitt Boyer of The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer:

“I’m sure they’re going to go after me as guys that I’m close with, friends,” he said. “But when the ball goes up there’s going to be nothing better for them than to beat me and vice versa. I can’t wait to beat them. So it will be interesting. It’s a game that definitely whoever wins … you’re going to be hearing from whoever wins a lot.”

Joakim Noah didn’t sound like he needed any prodding to get up for this game. Via Bryan Crawford of NBC Chicago:

‘‘It will probably be weird,” Joakim Noah said. “It will probably be strange, but I still want to kick his ass. I love Luol. He’s my brother. But when that ball goes up, he’s not going to be my brother.”

A January matchup between 20-20 and 15-26 teams doesn’t exactly inspire the most interest. I guess, in this Eastern Conference, there are playoff implications, but that’s hardly a reason to watch this game over, say, Dallas-Toronto, which is on at the same time.

But Deng facing his former team – and all the passion that goes with it – is plenty of reason to tune in.

Noah was obviously hurt when Chicago traded Deng, and Deng had to feel scorned when the Bulls didn’t offer him a big enough extension to ink him. These two can channel some bad feelings to motivate themselves.

But they can also channel good times. Deng was in just fourth season when Noah was a rookie. In many ways, they grew up together as they helped the Bulls rise in the Eastern Conference.

However Deng and Noah handle tonight, as long as they treat it as the special occasion it is, it will be worth watching the emotions unfold before, during and after the game. The NBA and sports are about drama, and this one offers plenty.

Pelicans signing center Jerome Jordan

Marc Gasol, Jerome Jordan
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Through the first two weeks of training camp, the Pelicans have seen their frontcourt depth decimated by injuries to Alexis Ajinca and Omer Asik, both of whom are out for a few weeks. A deal with Greg Smith fell through after he failed a physical. Now, Yahoo’s Marc Spears reports that they’re signing former Knicks and Nets center Jerome Jordan as a short-term solution:

Jordan has only played 65 games in his career and hasn’t been spectacular, but the Pelicans need a body while their two centers are out. Anthony Davis will spend some time at center, but considering the contracts Asik and Ajinca got this summer, Alvin Gentry clearly plans on playing him at power forward as well, and they need a center to at least fill time before Asik and Ajinca get back.

Kevin Love unsure about opening-night return

Kevin Love
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He’s back in practice with the Cavaliers, but there’s still no clarity on whether Kevin Love will be available for the season opener. Love had shoulder surgery in April after suffering a torn labrum in Game 4 of the Cavs’ first-round series against the Celtics, and doctors initially gave him a timetable of four to six months for a return. The six-month end of that is right around opening night (October 27), but Love still doesn’t know whether he’ll be able to play against the Bulls—although he is hopeful.

Via the Sporting News‘ Sean Deveney:

“I feel pretty good,” Love told Sporting News. “As far as the opener goes, I am not completely sure. I’ll probably get with the doctors and see what they have to say. I know that my six-month post-op is coming up here pretty fast. As far as getting the strength back, getting the range of motion, I feel pretty good, so I am looking forward to getting into some more contact, getting into a rhythm and getting out there as quickly as I can.”

Love has been cleared for 3-on-3 practices, but not yet for 5-on-5. If it were up to him, he’d be back on the court, but he understands he needs to follow the rehab protocol for his injury.

“(Six months is) just a ballpark figure that has generally been thrown out there by anybody who has talked about the rehab process for this kind of an injury,” Love said. “I like to think that I am ahead of the game, but there’s different tests and the due diligence that the doctor will go through and the training staff will go through. So all I can do is go out there every day and attack my rehab and hopefully I will be able to go out there and help these guys as soon as possible.”

At the very least, the Cavs will be without Kyrie Irving (still recovering from knee surgery) and Iman Shumpert (out up to three months with a wrist injury), and probably Tristan Thompson too, unless his contract situation changes unexpectedly. So having Love available would be some much-needed good news. But it’s more important that Love (and everyone else) is healthy for the playoffs. If he’s not ready to play, there’s no need to rush back for an October game.