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NBA Summer League Notebook for Monday: Bulls’ Lauri Markkanen has a rough day

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LAS VEGAS — There is far too much going on at Las Vegas Summer League to see everything, or write about everything, so here are a few things from my notebook Monday that didn’t make it into a post, organized in the traditional bullet-point format.

The Chicago Bulls are rebuilding. The question among most Bulls fans was not “should we rebuild?” Rather, it was “can Gar/Pax handle the job?”

Their first big move — with the No. 7 pick they got from Minnesota in the Jimmy Butler deal — was to draft Lauri Markkanen, the 7-foot three-point shooter out of Arizona. He was a guy that left scouts divided heading into the draft, some loved his potential and what he could be, others thought his game would not translate.

Monday was a rough day for the rookie, who shot 1-of-13 from the field. It wasn’t pretty.

“I can definitely improve something (with my shot), being more balanced and getting lower on my shot, but I’m not really worried about it,” Markkanen said after the game, sounding like a seasoned shooter. “Those kinds of days happen, not often, but sometimes you just have them.”

The Bulls aren’t concerned either.

“Lauri missed shots, it looked like everyone was going down,” Bulls GM Gar Forman said. “You can see he can put the ball on the floor, he’s a good passer, he’s a very skilled player, he’s got some toughness he’s just got to get physically stronger, which is normal for a 19-20 year old kid. Since we’ve had him in the building, we’ve been really impressed with his work ethic and his skill level…

“I thought he played really well the other night. When he struggles to make shots, that’s just part of the learning process.”

After watching him for a couple of games the potential with Markkanen is there, you can see it in flashes, but like the Bulls it’s going to be a long process to get where he wants to be.

• I know what the Bulls gave up to get him, but if the team picks up the option on Cameron Payne for the 2018-19 season, it’s only to save face after a disastrous trade.

• The Rockets are set at point guard, with Chris Paul and James Harden, but the way Isaiah Taylor has played this Summer League, he looks like he could be the third guard on the roster — and maybe push for some run next season. He had 18 points and 8 assists on Monday and was looking good doing it.

Taylor is under contract with the Rockets but spent last season in the then D-League (now G-League).

“When you watch Isaiah Taylor play now compared to last season when we were here, it just shows you how important the G-League is,” said Rockets Summer League coach Roy Rogers. “Because when he left us after training camp and went to the G-League, he became such a better player. He learned how to distribute the ball better, to slow down, to speed up, he’s just such a different player. We have to give credit to our G-League coaching staff, they did an excellent job wit him, and he’s come up this summer, he’s really worked hard. We’re excited where his future is going…

“He’s been able to depend on his speed and athleticism, and as you get to the NBA, we all know NBA assistant coaches watch hours and hours of film and if there’s a weakness, they’re going to expose it. So they’re trying to keep him out of the lane, and he’s hitting the three point shot. He’s got a chance to be a special player.”

• The Rockets may have another G-League find in forward Troy Williams, who had 27 points to lead Houston on Monday.

“Troy has been relentless, he’s been fearless, and I like what I’ve seen out of him thus far,” Rogers said. “There’s been a couple shots he’s taken where I went ‘Ughhh… good shot’ but he has that belief in himself. He’s the kind of guy who can come in and change the game, he’s really making a defensive end. I’m really excited about how he’s progressing.

• Houston’s Zhou Qi is tall, long, and mobile — which has led to some big time blocked shots.

• It was a let down for the crowd, but the Lakers were smart to sit Lonzo Ball Monday against the Kings’ and De’Aaron Fox. The Lakers reported he had a sore groin, and whether he could play through it isn’t the point — this is Summer League. The Lakers aren’t winning this thing (they are 0-2) and considering the injury risk and other negative’s what’s the point? If you bought a Summer League ticket expecting to see stars, you misunderstand the event.

• The Suns’ drafted Josh Jackson third, and the forward who played a lot of four at Kansas is having to adjust to the three at the NBA level.

“I’m getting used to it,” Jackson said. “The three is probably my natural position. Just being out there with our guys, they’re just so versitle, so tall, so athletic, just makes the game really fun.”

The key for him making the transition is his jumper.

“Once I knock down my outside shot, I feel like the defender has to respect it a little bit more, and that opens it up for me to do what I’m really great at, which is get to the basket. Hopefully, I can keep knocking it down, but even if I’m not I’m going to keep shooting it anyway.”

Report: Kyrie Irving considered requesting a trade after Cavaliers’ championship season

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Kyrie Irving reportedly made his desire to leave the Cavaliers known during his first few years in Cleveland. Then, LeBron James returned and that talk quieted – for a while. This offseason, Irving renewed his trade request, reportedly before the draft then again to Cavs owner Dan Gilbert last week.

But this has apparently been percolating throughout Irving’s time in Cleveland – even at the Cavaliers’ peak.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

When Irving signed his deal, he expected to be the franchise player for the foreseeable future. But about two weeks later, James arrived from Miami. The sudden change of situation rocked Irving, and he has vacillated at times over the past three years about working as a secondary star to James and the original plan of having his own team.

He discussed the challenge during last month’s NBA Finals.

“Having just a tremendously great player like that come to your team, and you see yourself being one of those great players eventually, and then he ends up joining it, and then now you have to almost take a step back and observe,” Irving said. “Finding that balance is one of the toughest things to do because you have so much belief and confidence in yourself. … Selfishly, I always wanted to just show everyone in the whole entire world exactly who I was every single time.”

With this in mind, Irving considered requesting a trade after the Cavs’ championship last year but decided against it, sources said.

Irving is catching a lot of heat for wanting to ditch LeBron and the consensus second-best team in the NBA. Imagine if Irving requested a trade immediately after a title!

This is yet another example of winning curing all ills. Irving clearly sees playing a supporting role as suboptimal, but he was willing to do it when Cleveland was winning a championship. Now that the Cavs title chances have slipped (hello, Kevin Durant-boosted Warriors) – even just to second-best in the entire league – Irving has prioritized his exit.

We’ll see how this affects Irving’s image. That’s important for such a prominent endorser. But it’s safe to say a trade request last summer would have gone over far worse with the public.

Report: Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns recruiting Kyrie Irving to Minnesota

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When Draymond Green and other members of the Warriors spent time recruiting Kevin Durant to come to Golden State it made sense — he was about to be a free agent who could make his own choices. Watching players such as C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard recruit Carmelo Anthony to Portland makes sense — ‘Melo has a no-trade clause so he needs to waive it to go anywhere, so recruiting makes sense.

This one makes less sense, but it is happening — Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns are recruiting Kyrie Irving to come play in Minnesota. Brian Windhorst of ESPN has the reporting.

League sources told ESPN that both Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns have been doing their part to recruit Irving on the idea of playing alongside them in Minnesota, and they’ve made it known to Wolves management that they want to add the Cavs star to the mix. Butler and Irving became tight in their time playing for USA Basketball together. Towns’ father, Karl Towns Sr., and Irving’s father, Drederick Irving, are connected through the basketball scene in northern New Jersey, where they both reside.

This could happen, but just about anything could happen the door is wide open with Irving to a lot of teams. That said, here are my two thoughts.

First, recruiting Irving is nice, but he has zero say in where he gets traded. Irving does not have a no-trade clause, he is not a free agent, he has two years left on his deal and the Cavaliers will/should send him to the team that gives them the best return. What Irving wants is irrelevant (although teams trying to get and keep him may take it into consideration).

Second, Minnesota could put together an interesting package, but there would be hurdles. It would likely involve one or both of Andrew Wiggins and Jeff Teague. Wiggins can be extended this summer, but that salary would not count toward the salary in this trade so someone such as Cole Aldrich would need to be thrown in (and it would take more than that, there would need to be picks). More likely, it would take Jeff Teague and his $19 million salary to get a deal done — except the Timberwolves signed him this summer so Teague cannot be traded until Dec. 15.

If the Cavaliers can’t find a deal they like this summer, they can step back and look at their options, then decide to wait out the market and bring Irving back to start the season. At that point, a deal with the Timberwolves makes more sense.

In the short term, Butler and KAT can recruit all they want.

Report: Kyrie Irving initially requested trade before draft – to Bulls

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Kyrie Irving reportedly asked Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert last week for a trade.

But that apparently wasn’t the first time Irving approached Cleveland about a trade this offseason.

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

Another league source said that Irving made his initial trade request before last month’s Draft, in hopes of being traded to Chicago and playing with All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler.

That’s around the time Irving reportedly told former Team USA teammates – who include Butler – that he might be interested in a trade and was keen on the Bulls. It seemed that was in preparation for LeBron James leaving in 2018, but Irving’s timeline might have been accelerated.

Irving and Butler are close, but the Cavs went the other way with that information – trying to line up a trade for Butler. Cleveland obviously didn’t pull of a deal, as Chicago dealt Butler to the Timberwolves.

Beyond Butler, the Bulls lacked the assets to trade for Irving. Yes, LeBron and Dwyane Wade are friends. No, Wade’s value is not anywhere remotely near Irving’s. And remember, without a no-trade clause and contracted for two more years before a player option, Irving has minimal leverage to pick his destination.

This report also negates the idea that Irving hurt the Cavaliers and his own likelihood of getting dealt by not requesting a trade before players like Chris Paul and Paul George were settled. Maybe Irving could have been more insistent earlier, but he at least gave a full offseason of notice that he was ready to move on.

AP source: Justin Zanik, David Morway join Jazz front office

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A person with knowledge of the situation says the Utah Jazz have reached agreements with Justin Zanik and David Morway to join the front office.

Zanik returns to the Jazz after serving as assistant general manager from 2012-16, the person told The Associated Press on Friday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the decisions had not been formally announced.

Zanik, a former agent, had been hired as assistant general manager with the Milwaukee Bucks and was expected to succeed general manager John Hammond one day. Hammond was named GM of Orlando Magic in May and the Bucks eventually hired Jon Horst.

Morway was the Pacers’ GM from 2008-12 and Bucks assistant GM from 2013-15. He spent 13 years in the Indiana front office, starting as vice president of basketball administration.

ESPN first reported the agreements.