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Report: 7’6″ college center Mamadou Ndiaye declares for draft

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Mamadou Ndiaye anchored the UC Irvine defense this season. Almost literally.

He’s 7’6″ — the tallest player in college basketball — with an 8’1″ wingspan, so the Anteaters would camp him out in the middle of their zone and let him just take away penetration in the paint. He almost never moved outside it. In the Big West it was mostly effective.

Would it be in the NBA? Senegal native Ndiaye wants to find out, he is declaring for the draft, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Ndiaye submitted paperwork to enter the draft on Thursday and has informed the UC Irvine coaching staff of his decision to leave school. He said he won’t hire representation immediately, but has made plans to do so later in the predraft process…. A shot-blocking, inside presence, Ndiaye averaged 12.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 37 games this season.

I’m no scout, but as a Big West season ticket holder — GO BEACH! — I have seen Ndiaye in person multiple times and can tell you what I saw.

He’s very tall, very long, and his entire game is based around using that length. He moves a lot better than he did as a freshman, but he still doesn’t move well — certainly not against NBA-level athletes — and his instincts for the game are not great.

He put up nice offensive numbers, and his shooting stroke is decent, but almost all his points come off alley-oops, lobs when he is next to the rim, or offensive rebounds. He can get away with that in the Big West because there are only a couple other bigs 6’10” and most team’s bigs are a couple of inches shorter than that. He will find it much harder against NBA level size and athleticism.

Defensively, when he can’t just camp in the paint, he’s not going to be effective. Teams could expose him in pick-and-rolls, and considering the direction the game is going he may struggle to fit. He just would not be quick enough or anticipate the play well enough, and he hurt Irvine against teams that could up the tempo because he couldn’t keep up.

That said, you can’t teach size, and if a team wants to take a flier on him in the second half of the second round, they could do a lot worse.

DeMarre Carroll returns to Raptors lineup Thursday after missing 41 games

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This is excellent news for Toronto Raptors fans.

After missing 41 games following having his knee scoped in January, DeMarre Carroll is returning to the Toronto Raptors lineup Thursday.

While it will take a little while for Carroll to get back to form (there are four regular season games left), this is exactly what the Raptors needed heading into the playoffs. Carroll is expected to play 15 minutes Thursday.

Toronto’s weakness has been the four spot. The Raptors have started Luis Scola there most of the season, with Patrick Patterson playing behind him. If one of those guys were getting bench minutes as a backup it would be workable, but as starters they are a big hole in the lineup. One Carroll can fill if healthy and able to play a small-ball four. That’s a key reason the Raptors paid him $60 million this past offseason (four-year deal). Carroll is a “3&D” guy who can space the floor on offense and, when healthy, lock up the best wing defender on the other team. He was a force for the Hawks in last year’s playoffs.

The Raptors, even without Carroll, set a franchise record for wins with 52 — but that’s not how their season will be judged. This team hasn’t gotten out of the first round since the Vince Carter/purple jersey era, and fans expect at least that if not a trip to the conference finals.

If Carroll is right, the Raptors get closer to that goal. And if he’s all the way back — and the backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan is healthy and playing well — the conference finals against Cleveland (most likely) would be far more interesting.

Minnesota owner: Kevin Garnett wants to return next season

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The last time Kevin Garnett set foot on an NBA court was Jan. 23, and he played just nine minutes in that game before tweaking his knee. Since then — and frankly, for much of the season — he’s been like an extra assistant coach focused on the development of the young talent on the Timberwolves roster. He seems to be good at it, at least based on what we saw against the Warriors the other night.

Is this how Garnett will leave the game, or will he be back next season? Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor expects him back.

Garnett is under contract for $8 million next season (and he has a no-trade clause). If he wants to come back, he’ll be back. He has the power.

This is KG’s 2ist0th NBA season, and just like Kobe Bryant (20 years) we can see the wear and tear of all those miles on their bodies and their games. The NBA record for longest NBA career is 21 years, by Kevin Willis and Robert Parish, and Garnett could break that next season if he so chooses.

The expectation is Garnett will try to get healthy and in shape this summer, and if he can he can he’ll make one more go of it (playing in a limited role — 15 minutes a night trying to stabilize the defense of the second unit — and likely getting a bit of a farewell tour of this own). If his body says no to him this summer, he retires. Then he moves into some level of front office role with the team.

But anyone who has watched him over the years knows Garnett wants to play. And does not want to be forced out of the game by injuries.

Reports: Heat expected to sign Dorell Wright for rest of season, playoffs

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The Miami Heat are looking for a little wing depth for the rest of the season, and a solid practice player they can count on for spot minutes in the postseason.

Enter Dorell Wright.

The veteran swingman who played for Portland the two seasons prior then went to China this season, is in talks with the Heat and should sign with them soon for the rest of the season and the playoffs. Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports broke the story.

Wright is in Miami and could formalize an agreement with the Heat by Sunday, sources said. Wright has spent time in Miami after finishing the Chinese Basketball Association season.

There’s a comfort level here, Wright played six seasons in Miami and he is good friends with Dwyane Wade. Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald added this note.

The Heat (45-32) has been waiting until the final week of the regular season to fill its two open roster spots in order to remain under the NBA luxury-tax threshold. The Heat could also end up adding a player from it’s NBA Development League affiliate.

Wright can shoot the rock, he hit 38 percent from three in Portland, and this season in the defense-free Chinese league he averaged 24.3 points and 7.5 rebounds a game. He can step right onto the court for Miami and knock down some shots. Which may be all they want.

Kevin Durant spoke to Kendrick Perkins about free agency, he will look at a “few teams”

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Kevin Durant and Kendrick Perkins are tight. Perkins hasn’t been with the Thunder since the middle of last season, but the two still talk all the time.

Perkins plays for New Orleans now, a team that happened to be in Boston for a game yesterday. Because parts of the Boston fan base have become Durant obsessed they asked Perkins about him, and Perkins gave a fascinating answer, via Chris Forsberg of ESPN.

“As a friend, I try not to talk to him too much about free agency. I always try to just want to talk to him about things outside of basketball. We talk about personal life and stuff like that. And I know he’s getting this question every day on the hour and stuff like that, so I try not to bother him.

“But he did shoot some teams out there that he made me sign a confidentiality form that I couldn’t tell nobody. He’s got a few teams that he will be looking at.”

People who know Perkins understand that he tends to say some things with a win, like signing a confidentiality form. Multiple people confirmed there is no such paper. Not that they needed one — Durant trusts Perkins and likely said, “please don’t talk to anybody about this,” to which Perkins would have responded, “you didn’t have to ask.” They get each other.

One other interesting quote from Perkins, about if KD would leave Oklahoma City.

“[The Thunder] win it all, he can’t leave, in my opinion,” Perkins said. “But if they don’t, it might be time for a change.”

What should we take away from all this? Stuff we probably already knew, but consider this confirmation.

• How the Thunder do in the playoffs matters a lot. Reach the Finals, he stays. Get bounced in the second round by San Antonio and things are certainly more up in the air. What happens if the Thunder beat the Spurs but lose to the Warriors in six or seven games? This is not as simple as just “Finals or I’m gone” as some make it out to be.

• Of course Durant is thinking about free agency. How could he not? And he is bouncing ideas off friends, just like you and I do when we have to make a major life decision. You can be sure that KD’s inner circle (which is very tight) is doing its research on the franchises and the markets that will be in play.

The feeling around the league is that Golden State is the frontrunner if Durant bolts, but a handful of other teams will get the chance to make their pitch. The Knicks are reportedly out of the running. The Lakers could well get a courtesy interview but if he wants to win now and considers the Knicks too far away the Lakers are not getting anywhere. While rumors about Boston, Houston, Miami and other cities pop up, the fact is if KD wants out of Oklahoma City 29 other teams would do whatever it takes to land him. He is a franchise changing player, and there are only a handful of them in the game.

My money is still on him staying, but just on a one-year contract.

However, Durant doesn’t know for sure what Durant is going to do this summer, and the playoff performance of the Thunder is going to set the tone.