Luol Deng’s agent explains move to ex-rival Heat

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LAS VEGAS — Ex-Bulls All-Star small forward Luol Deng’s decision to sign with his former rival, the Heat, might strike some as odd.

But his Chicago-based agent, Ron Shade, explained that perhaps the Heat’s knowledge of Deng’s game, makes Miami a surprisingly good fit, especially with the departure of league MVP LeBron James to Cleveland.

“I think Miami, obviously losing probably losing the greatest player in the game currently, their team is going to change a bit. The comfort that he had is when we sat down with (Heat president) Pat Riley and since we’ve talked to him, he’s said they know Lu. They’ve played against him. They’ve seen Lu at his best moments and his worst moments, and I think they understand that while Lu isn’t going to fill in for LeBron, Lu can step in and replace some of the things that LeBron did,” Shade told CSNChicago.com. “They’re not looking for Lu to be LeBron. They’re looking for Lu to be Luol in LeBron’s place and that means they know Chris (Bosh) is going to have to be better, Dwyane (Wade) is going to have to be better and Lu can be better. I think that’s the main thing that they see, that the weight is going to be evenly distributed between those three guys and looking forward to the camaraderie that they can build. The truth of the matter is, they still can be a contender in the East.”

[RELATED: Doug McDermott drops 31 in Bulls’ latest summer league game]

Deng, who was also pursued by the likes of Washington, Dallas, Atlanta and Phoenix, was widely expected to garner a long-term contract of upward of $12 million, and after the Bulls traded him to the Cavaliers following his rejection of a three-year, $30-million contract offer in January, the South Sudan native accepting a two-year, $20-million deal — with a player option in the second year — could seem a bit curious, something Shade admits, though he presented the rationale in the situation.

“The whole process, it was strange. Nothing really happened the way we expected it to, and Lu being the professional that he was, he made the best out of every possible situation that he was put in. He didn’t want to rush through the process. He wanted to hear everything out and kind of look at every option, and look at the pros and cons of each option, and move forward from there,” Shade said. “The Bulls’ offer when he was traded to Cleveland, it was a take-it-or-leave-it offer. In this situation, we still had options. Luol had choices to make. He made them. He decided this, and at the end of the day, while it’s $10 million, there’s no state income tax. So maybe you gain about a million dollars in that. But at the same time, it gives him options. He’s a free agent at the end of this year, and it gives him the opportunity to play out a year healthy, to play out a year in a situation where he can be highlighted. So what’s in the past is in the past. The Bulls’ offer is the Bulls’ offer. Whether it’s good, bad or indifferent, at that time, we didn’t feel it was the right offer to accept for Lu and right now he’s happy with the decisions that he’s made, and he knows it’s going to be great to help him further his career.”

[MORE on Bulls from CSN Chicago and Aggrey Sam]

Jazz deny rumored promise to draft D.J. Wilson

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Michigan forward D.J. Wilson said he’d stay in the draft only if he’d go in the first round. Yet, despite not doing any on-court work at the combine, the borderline first-rounder remained in the draft beyond the withdrawal deadline.

What gives?

Rod Beard of The Detroit News:

Kyle Goon of The Salt Lake Tribune:

NBA teams sometimes promise to draft a player. They never reveal that before the draft. So, Utah’s denial doesn’t mean much – even if it’s true.

The Jazz were the last team to give Wilson a full work out before he injured himself in a Spurs workout. So, this rumor could be based on circumstantial evidence rather than leak of a Utah guarantee.

Wilson would make sense for the Jazz, who could see their payroll bloat if they re-sign Gordon Hayward and George Hill (and maybe even Joe Ingles). They could move Derrick Favors, an interior who doesn’t exactly fit with Rudy Gobert. Wilson would give Utah another option with Trey Lyles as developing stretch fours behind Boris Diaw. (Utah could even move Diaw and count on Lyles/Wilson to emerge sooner than later.)

Watch LeBron James’ top highlight from each of his postseason appearances (video)

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LeBron James and Tony Parker are the only players to play in the last dozen postseasons.

(If you’re wondering, Manu Ginobili missed the 2009 playoffs due to an ankle injury.)

It’s fair to say LeBron was a bit more spectacular than Parker in that span. As LeBron enters his seventh straight Finals, the NBA released this awesome video showing LeBron’s best playoff highlight from each year:

There’s no entry for this year. Here’s betting it comes against the Warriors in the NBA Finals.

David Stern: We thought we could re-work Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade until Mitch Kupchak ‘panicked’

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NBA commissioner David Stern – acting as New Orleans’ owner representative, he says – infamously vetoed a potential Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade in 2011.

But that didn’t close the possibility of Paul going to the Lakers.

The New Orleans Hornets (now the Pelicans and not be confused with the current Charlotte Hornets), Lakers and Rockets tried to rework the three-team trade that would’ve sent Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to Houston and Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and a first-round pick to New Orleans. But talks fell apart around the time the Lakers dealt Odom to the Mavericks.

Stern on Nunyo & Company (hat tip: Harrison Feigen of Silver Screen & Roll):

In fact, in the course of the weekend, we thought we could re-do the deal. We really thought that Houston would be ready to part with Kevin Lowry, and we had a trade lined up for Odom that would have gotten us a good first-round draft pick – not we, but my basketball folks. But Mitch Kupchak at the time panicked and moved Odom to Dallas. So the piece wasn’t even there for us to play with at the time. So that was it — just about what was good for the then-New Orleans Hornets.

Remember, Stern – roundly criticized for his handling of this episode* – has blamed the Lakers and Rockets for the lingering perception. This could just be him again trying to shift responsibility.

*Somewhat fairly, somewhat not. Owners veto general manager-approved trades often enough, and Stern was acting as New Orleans’ owner after George Shinn sold the franchise back to the league. But Stern had an agenda as commissioner. He never should have assumed such a large conflict of interest. What he did with the Paul trade was reasonable for an acting owner, but because Stern was also commissioner, it’s fair to question how much New Orleans’ interests and how much the league’s interests factored into the decision-making.

But let’s take Stern at his word – that he and the Hornets thought they could re-do the trade and send Paul to the Lakers. That doesn’t mean they were right. Maybe the Lakers and Rockets (who had Kyle Lowry, not the “Kevin Lowry” Stern named) were never going to part with enough to get Stern’s approval.

And maybe New Orleans didn’t properly convey its interest in still completing a deal. Perhaps, Kupchak acted reasonably by trading Odom to Dallas – for a first-round pick, a deal Mark Cuban would ultimately regret – rather than wait around for the Hornets, who eventually sent Paul to the Clippers.

It’s easy to blame Kupchak, but he might tell a different story.

Isaiah Thomas makes it clear he wants to stay in Boston

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It’s been a long time since there was so much discussion about whether a team needs to trade or just let go of an All-NBA and All-Star player at his peak who is clear and away a fan favorite.

Yet that’s where the Boston Celtics and Isaiah Thomas find themselves. After landing the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft — where they will almost certainly take point guard Markelle Fultz — and with the Celtics looking a full couple steps behind the Cavaliers in the playoffs, the question about whether Thomas is part of the future in Boston has come up. He is a free agent in 2018 and are the Celtics willing to pay the big money it will take to keep him?

Know this, Thomas wants to remain a Celtic and win a Celtic. You can listen to his full comments above, but Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe has the money quote:

Outside of chasing Gordon Hayward, this summer the Celtics are going to focus on getter some frontcourt help, someone to help with rebounding and rim protection. They will look to get better, but Danny Ainge isn’t going to push all his chips into the middle of the table to make a gambit on immediate massive improvement. He will remain patient, building this team so that in three years and five years they will be a force in the East.

And the Thomas discussion likely gets put on hold for a year (unless there is a change of course and contract extension talks come up, but that’s only if Boston misses on Hayward and any other big targets).