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…

Marcus Smart wants to be back for Game 6 vs. Bucks

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Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart has been out for some time after injuring his thumb earlier in the year. The absence of one of Boston’s most important guards has been felt even more so after Kyrie Irving went down following knee surgery.

In short, the Celtics would like to have Smart back on the floor.

We’re now close enough that Smart has begun to give solid timeframes to reporters. Speaking to media on Sunday, Smart said that his plan is to be back for Game 6 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Boston took on Milwaukee on Sunday in Game 4.

Via ESPN:

Right now, [a Game 6 return is] the plan and we’re still on the same track,” Smart said before Game 4 on Sunday. “I’ve been doing everything but contact, so I will be able to go and start that.”

Smart said he believes the thumb is ready for contact.

“The surgery did its job,” said Smart, who injured himself March 11 while diving for a loose ball in a game against the Indiana Pacers. “Thumb is holding up well. I feel ready, I feel strong enough to get back out there. I’m just waiting on the OK.”

The series between the Celtics and Bucks has been tumultuous, a back-and-forth affair as an injury-riddled Boston squad takes on a healthy but offensively-sluggish Milwaukee team. Smart could add a shot of life for Boston in a much-needed way.

The Bucks won Game 4 and the series is now tied, 2-2. Game 6 would be on Thursday, April 26 if need be.

Manu Ginobili leads Spurs over Warriors

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Although the San Antonio Spurs were outmatched against the Golden State Warriors, Manu Ginobili was an integral part of the Spurs staving off elimination against the reigning champs on Sunday. San Antonio beat the Warriors, 103-90, to put the series at 3-1.

The 40-year-old wingman scored 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter in San Antonio as Ettore Messina logged a playoff win at the helm of the team. Gregg Popovich, who sadly lost his wife this past week, did not coach.

Ginobili was 5-of-10 off the bench, adding five assists and three rebounds in the win. LaMarcus Aldridge led all Spurs scorers with 22, notching a double-double with 10 rebounds.

Meanwhile, the only Warriors player to score more than 12 points was Kevin Durant, who rose above all scorers with 34 points to go with 13 rebounds. Klay Thompson shot an embarrassing 25 percent from the field, scoring just 12 points.

Ginobili put the dagger on the Warriors with 90 seconds to go, hitting a spinning flip shot over Draymond Green to give San Antonio a 10-point lead.

The series heads back to Oakland for Game 5 with the Spurs trailing, 3-1.

Kevin Durant on Giannis Antetokounmpo: ‘I would tell him to play for himself’

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Kevin Durant was once the big star in a little city. The former Oklahoma City Thunder star now plays for the Golden State Warriors, and has a championship ring to his name after making a switch in 2016.

So Durant has at least some experience similar to that of Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak is currently leading the charge for the Bucks against the Boston Celtics in the first round, and he’s seen as the future in Milwaukee. Antetokounmpo signed a 4-year, $100 million contract in the summer of 2016, so presumably he’ll be in Wisconsin for some time.

Meanwhile, Durant had some advice for Antetokounmpo, should he ask for it. In a feature on ESPN, Durant was quoted as saying he felt Antetokounmpo should be sure to have fun, and to play for himself.

Via ESPN:

What I would say to him, I would tell him to play for himself,” Durant said. “Because he’s the one out there putting in the work, he’s the one out there getting up in the morning staying committed to the game. Obviously [the comments about staying put] sounds good to the fans in Milwaukee and to the ownership, because he cares so much about wanting to please them and play well for them, and I get it. But his career is about him; it’s about whatever he wants to do and however he feels is right for him. And what type of basketball does he want to play? He’s not going to stay in Milwaukee if he’s not having fun playing the game.

That’s some pretty good advice, although factors surrounding Antetokounmpo will likely weigh the same as they did on Durant in OKC. The Bucks presumably need a new coach once their season ends. They’re currently helmed by interim coach Joe Prunty, who took over when Jason Kidd was fired earlier this year.

The Bucks also need to fill out their roster and find a way to stay healthy. The Thunder famously had roster issues (read: the James Harden trade) and eventually the lack of playoff success drove Durant to switch teams.

Milwaukee doesn’t seem close to that kind of juncture, although eventually things will flip for the young Bucks and fans and management will expect some kind of production in the postseason.

Giannis Antetokounmpo beats Celtics with late-game tip-in; series tied 2-2

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It was an exciting finish in Milwaukee on Sunday, where the Bucks took home a win on their home court to level the series against the Boston Celtics, 2-2.

The game came down to the wire, with 2016-17 NBA Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon giving the Bucks the lead after a corner 3-pointer with just 33.5 seconds left. The Celtics responded with a sideline out of bounds play that resulted in Al Horford tying the game with free throws.

On their final possession, the Bucks again went to Brogdon, who missed on a layup driving to the left side of the floor. Luckily, Giannis Antetokounmpo was there to follow with the tip-in with just five seconds left.

Via ESPN:

Boston was unable to convert on a final play, and Milwaukee grabbed the win, 104-102.

Game 5 will be in Boston on Tuesday.