Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng

Report: Luol Deng won’t sign extension with any team, limiting Cavaliers chances of trading him

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The Cavaliers were so desperate to make the playoffs this season, they traded for Luol Deng without any guarantee he’d stay with Cleveland this summer.

Deng’s production has fallen off, though the Cavaliers were so deficient at small forward, he’s actually helped them (8-10 with him, 13-23 without him). Still, Cleveland is three games out of playoff position.

That’s why the Cavaliers are considering trading Deng. That and the fact that their team is in disarray, and they must know Deng recognizes that.

But will any other team trade for Deng, a pending free agent, without him signing an extension? And would he do it?

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Forward Luol Deng’s reluctance to commit to a long-term extension with any team before July free agency makes it unlikely that the Cleveland Cavaliers can find a willing trade partner before Thursday’s NBA deadline, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The Cavaliers have had conversations with several teams, including Dallas, Detroit and Indiana about Deng, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Nevertheless, there’s no traction on a deal and no team seems inclined to give up valuable assets for a player who could walk away in free agency.

Unless the Cavaliers are willing to sell low, this will definitely narrow their pool of trade partners. Maybe some team(s) would accept Deng as a half-season rental, someone who can help with a playoff run. But more teams would trade for him if he’d sign an extension.

I’m a little surprised Deng is so anti-extension – unless he’s really not and is just unsatisfied with the offers he’s gotten. That’s be more rationale. Still, I’d imagine leaving Chicago for Cleveland has opened Deng’s eyes to how less-cohesive teams function, and he probably doesn’t want to get stuck somewhere without learning more about the team.

But if a team offers a big-money extension, would he really turn it down? And if that team wanted Deng badly enough to offer a sizable extension, wouldn’t it also probably offer the Cavaliers enough to accept a trade?

It seems no team values Deng highly enough to make that happen. That’s a product of his play in Cleveland and his contract status.

A lot will change this summer for Deng, and there’s a good chance he gets the contract he desires then. Unless a Cleveland trade partner steps up with an impressive extension offer, he’s better off letting this season play out, which seems to be what he’s doing.

TNT to cover NBA games with only former players, no traditional play-by-play men

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 19:  Grant Hill #33 of the Phoenix Suns looks to move the ball as Derek Fisher #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers defends in the first quarter of Game Two of the Western Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 19, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) — TNT will use broadcast teams featuring only former players and no traditional play-by-play men during five NBA doubleheaders later this season.

The “Players Only” schedule runs Monday nights from Feb. 27 to March 27 and includes matchups such as Golden State-Oklahoma City on March 20 and Cleveland-San Antonio a week later.

Brent Barry will serve as the primary host of one team with Derek Fisher and Grant Hill, while Greg Anthony partners with Kevin McHale and Richard Hamilton on the other.

Lisa Leslie and Dennis Scott will serve as reporters.

Turner Sports says Thursday that Chris Webber will anchor the studio coverage with Isiah Thomas and Baron Davis, and that additional NBA players will contribute to the five-week program.

James Harden presents fan with game ball on her 100th birthday (video)

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HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden took some time out after the Houston Rockets’ win over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks to give a fan a present on a her 100th birthday.

Video shows Harden signing a ball for the woman and spending a few moments sitting next to her in her courtside seat and posing for pictures Wednesday night.

Harden told ESPN’s Doris Burke in an interview that he told the woman how “blessed” he was to be able to have a chance to meet her.

The Houston guard also put on a good show for the fan during the game, scoring 38 points in a 111-92 victory over the Bucks.

Paul George dunks on DeMarcus Cousins while getting whacked in the face (video)

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Kings center DeMarcus Couins appears set to become the first player to sign as a veteran designated player. The Pacers hope Paul George will follow.

But in the Pacers’ win over the Kings yesterday, George beat Cousins.

Not even Cousins thwacking George in the face could stop this dunk.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.