Luol Deng would rather not talk about the contract extension he isn’t getting from Bulls

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Luol Deng is a two-time All-Star who’s embedded himself as an important part of the identity of the Chicago Bulls.

Entering the final year of his contract, however, the team seems willing to let the season play out without securing him to a long-term extension.

Speaking at the team’s media day on Friday, Deng didn’t want to discuss the fact that he and the team are so far apart that negotiations on a new deal haven’t even bothered to get started.

From K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

“I’ll try not to be rude, but honestly, I would rather not talk about it,” Deng said. “I would rather play.”

Deng’s six-year, $71 million deal expires after this season. Herb Rudoy, Deng’s agent, said recently that Deng would “definitely explore free agency” after general manager Gar Forman informed him no extension would occur this offseason.

Sources said cursory discussions produced such a gulf that counteroffers weren’t exchanged.

“We know our potential is great, so I just have to focus on us as a team and how good we can be,” Deng said. “I think everything will take care of itself. I know it’s going to come up here and there — there is always individual stuff — but honestly, I just want to put all my attention into the team.”

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau seemed to believe it, saying “Luol will focus on playing,” while the team’s general manager, Gar Forman, said he isn’t worried about the lack of a contract extension interfering with Deng’s ability to contribute in the upcoming season.

“I don’t anticipate that,” Forman said. “Luol and I talked (Thursday). I think he’s in a great place both physically and mentally. I think he’s ready to help lead this team.”

Normally you worry about players in a contract year — Chris Bosh admitted recently that when he focused on his impending free agency in Toronto, it “messed him up.”

But it really shouldn’t matter in Deng’s case.

The focus in Chicago will be on Derrick Rose all season long, and next summer’s free agent deal won’t be Deng’s first payday — he’ll have totaled over $81 million in career earnings by the time his contract is up, making the prospect of potentially being forced to play elsewhere next season just slightly easier to swallow.

Lakers fans give Dwyane Wade standing ovation, check out L.A. tribute video

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Lakers fans take a lot of abuse from other fan bases, some of it well deserved, but the core fans know the game.

And they know how much Dwyane Wade has meant to it.

Which is why they gave him a standing ovation when he checked into the game Monday night in Los Angeles.

The Lakers also put together a tribute video that played in the arena.

Classy move, Lakers. Well done.

Pacers’ Myles Turner shuts down Bradley Beal at the rim (VIDEO)

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Myles Turner owned the paint in the first half — the Pacers’ center had five blocked shots in the first 24 minutes.

The big shut down was on Bradley Beal, this is how a big man recovers and goes after it.

Then later there was this play leading to a bucket on the other end.

Turner has had a strong defensive season in the paint so far for the Pacers, a big step for him. He’s sixth among centers in ESPN’s defensive real plus/minus stat (which has its flaws but is a good snapshot).

Washington learned that the hard way.

 

Report: Houston kicking tires on J.R. Smith trade with Cavaliers

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The Houston Rockets desperately need help on the wing (among other things, but wing is the personnel focus). The Rockets would also like to have less salary on the books next season, giving them some flexibility and lowering the tax bill.

J.R. Smith fits both of those bills, so Houston and GM Daryl Morey are at least taking a look at a potential trade, reports Marc Stein of the New York Times.

While there is some logic to this, we are a long way from it being a reality. Smith does not exactly have a positive trade value, at least as a player right now.

Smith was part of the rotation that helped the LeBron-led Cavaliers reach the NBA Finals last season, but he will be best remembered for the Game 1 blunder in the Finals that deflated the Cavs. Without the playmaking of LeBron, Smith struggled to start this season, shooting 34 percent for the Cavaliers in limited minutes, before going on hiatus from the team. That said, in a better situation where he was asked to play a small and specific role, maybe he could still help.

Smith is guaranteed $18.59 million this season but only $3.87 million of his $15.68 million salary for next season is guaranteed.

Houston seems a logical fit. Money wise, a Brandon Knight for Smith trade works, but the Rockets will have to throw in picks or other sweeteners to get the Cavaliers interested. Cleveland also likely will be patient, hoping that as the deadline gets closer there is a little bidding war for Smith.

Still, the Rockets are active on the trade market (as always), and they need wings, so this is worth keeping an eye on.

Lakers’ Rajon Rondo has fluid drained from hand slowing his recovery from surgery

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Rajon Rondo has been out more than three weeks following surgery to repair the third metacarpal bone in his shooting hand (his right hand), and while there has been no official timeline he was expected back in the next week or two. He’s been out on the court before recent Lakers’ games getting in some work.

But he has now hit a bit of a setback, Lakers’ coach Luke Walton said on Wednesday. Here is what Walton said, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“There’s a little bit of swelling,” Walton said at Lakers shootaround on Monday in advance of his team’s game against the Miami Heat. “We’re going to shut him down for a few days then get back out after it again.”

It’s not clear when Rondo will return. He was averaging 8.5 points, 6.5 assists, and 4.5 rebounds a game before the injury.

The Lakers have gone 8-4 since Rondo went to the bench with his fractured hand. Without the veteran point guard, LeBron James has had the ball in his hands more as a playmaker (to Magic Johnson’s frustration at times), paired with Lonzo Ball (who has started to show some real chemistry with LeBron). The Lakers offense hasn’t been particularly good in these past dozen games, bottom 10 in the league, but they have balanced that with a top 7 defense. The Lakers are getting wins thanks to that defense and enough LeBron shot creation to get it done.

The Lakers are going to have to keep getting it done and now without Brandon Ingram, too, who is expected to miss a few more games with a sprained ankle.