Luol Deng would consider re-signing with Chicago Bulls this summer

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The Chicago Bulls, if they amnesty Carlos Boozer, will have significant cap room this summer. They’d have viable starters at point guard (Derrick Rose), shooting guard (Jimmy Butler), power forward (Taj Gibson) and center (Joakim Noah). That would leave a hole at only small forward, assuming Tony Snell isn’t ready to step into a bigger role and Mike Dunleavy plays his age.

Who will be the top small forwards at least potentially on the market?

1. LeBron James. He’s a unlikely to leave the Heat.

2. Carmelo Anthony. There could be legs here, but there are still plenty of hurdles.

3. Luol Deng. Well, this is awkward.

The Bulls, of course, traded Deng to Cleveland earlier this month. But what if he’s the best fit for them this summer? Would they consider him? Would he consider them?

Deng, via Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

‘‘I don’t know,’’ Deng said sarcastically. ‘‘Maybe they’ll offer me three years, $30 million. That might be an option to take.’’

Deng eventually answered without the sarcasm.

‘‘I can’t say,’’ he said. ‘‘There’s no bad blood or anything. For me to sit here and say I’m taking Chicago out of the equation, that’s stupid. I was there for 10 years.’’

Deng obviously feels a little scorned right now. The Bulls lowballed him on a take-it-or-leave-it extension offer, probably a smart play by them, but one Deng didn’t appreciate. He had little trouble getting motivated to beat the Bulls a few days ago, and though it didn’t work – Deng shot 2-for-11 in a double-digit loss – the passion was real.

But his pragmatic approach is best. If the Bulls are the best spot for him, there’s no reason not to consider them. Otherwise, Deng might just be punishing himself for the next four years purely out of spite.

For the same reasons, the Bulls should consider re-signing Deng. They’d know what they’re getting – a good player who’s well-liked among the team – and he might be the missing piece. For their trouble, they would have avoided a year of the luxury tax and acquired a few draft picks. Not a bad deal.

A good example of such a trade-and-return was the San Antonio Spurs sending Sean Elliot to the Detroit Pistons in 1993 for Dennis Rodman. Elliot struggled with the Pistons, and while he was a restricted free agent the following summer, Detroit traded him back to San Antonio (which was apparently allowed then).

History repeating itself with Deng is a longshot – a real longshot. The Bulls likely traded Deng to seek a big upgrade. But if they strike out and Deng is the best fit left on the market…

Victor Oladipo’s practice dunk better than anything he – or maybe anyone – did in dunk contest (video)

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Victor Oladipo has grown into far more than just a dunker.

In fact, in Saturday’s dunk contest, he didn’t look like a dunker at all.

The Pacers star missed all three attempts of his first dunk, and a Black Panther mask was by far the biggest draw of his second. Oladipo was eliminated after the first round.

Maybe Dennis Smith Jr. wasn’t the only eliminated dunker who left something in his bag. This Oladipo dunk – 180 degrees, throwing ball off the backboard with his left hand while in mid-air, dunking with his right hand – while preparing in Los Angeles was awesome.

Larry Nance Jr. had the contest’s best dunk. This would have rivaled it.

Pelicans owner Tom Benson hospitalized with flu symptoms

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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — New Orleans Saints and Pelicans Owner Tom Benson has been hospitalized with flu symptoms.

A statement released Wednesday by the NFL and NBA clubs says their 90-year-old owner is resting comfortably at Ochsner Medical Center, a hospital which also serves as a major sponsor and which owns naming rights to the teams’ training headquarters.

Benson has owned the New Orleans Saints since 1985 and bought the New Orleans Pelicans in 2012.

In recent years, Benson has overhauled his estate plan so that his third wife, Gayle, would be first in line to inherit control of the two major professional franchises.

 

Report: Seattle hosting Kings-Warriors preseason game

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Kevin Durant spent his rookie season in Seattle, before the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder. He has said Seattle fans deserved to see him grow up in the NBA after supporting his promising start.

They’ll get their chance.

Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee:

The Kings and Golden State Warriors have scheduled a preseason game next season in Seattle, according to multiple league sources.

The Oct. 6 meeting between Northern California teams will be the first NBA game in the Key Arena since the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City after the 2007-08 season and became the Thunder.

This game will be loaded with storylines. Not only Durant, but the Kings considered moving to Seattle a few years ago. And of course, the return of NBA basketball to Seattle.

At some point, Seattle will get its own team again. For now, this preseason game creates intrigue there.

Report: Kawhi Leonard cleared medically, seeking second opinion

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he’d be surprised if Kawhi Leonard played again this season, a stark reversal from just a month ago. Back then, even while announcing Leonard was out indefinitely with a quad injury, the San Antonio coach said Leonard wouldn’t miss the rest of the season.

What’s going on?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

After spending 10 days before the All-Star break in New York consulting with a specialist to gather a second opinion on his right quad injury, All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard bears the burden of determining when he’s prepared to play again, sources told ESPN.

Leonard has been medically cleared to return from the right quad tendinopathy injury, but since shutting down a nine-game return to the Spurs that ended Jan. 13, he has elected against returning to the active roster, sources said.

The uncertainty surrounding this season — and Leonard’s future which could include free agency in the summer of 2019 — has inspired a palpable stress around the organization, league sources said.

At first glance, this sounds like Derrick Rose five years ago. Even after he was cleared to play following a torn ACL, the then-Bulls star remained mysterious about when he’d suit up. His confidence in his physical abilities seemed to be a major issue, and he was never the same player since (suffering more leg injuries).

But the Spurs famously favor resting players to preserve long-term health. They seem unlikely to rush back Leonard. They might even sit players who want to play more often. And Leonard isn’t Rose.

Still, it’s clear something is amiss in San Antonio. Maybe not amiss enough to end Leonard’s tenure there, but the longer this lingers, the more time for tension to percolate.