It started out as a half-joke around the league, “Wouldn’t it be funny if Tom Thibodeau went after Luol Deng?” Chicago Wolves jokes ensued. Then pretty quickly it became clear this was no joke.
For weeks now, every source around the league has expected Luol Deng to sign with the Timberwolves sooner rather than later. Marc Stein of the New York Times confirmed this.
Just to be clear, that gives Minnesota Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Derrick Rose, and Deng from Thibodeau’s old Bulls team.
The question is how much Deng can contribute. He was benched in Los Angeles during season one of the Lakers’ youth movement last season, but still some veterans got run under Luke Walton while Deng sat the final 81 games of the season. Two seasons ago in Los Angeles he played in 56 games and finished with the lowest point total of his career (7.6 per game), shooting just 30.9 percent from three, with a true shooting percentage of just 47, a PER of 10.1, and he was below a replacement level player. Was that season’s decline an aberration, or has Deng (like other former Tom Thibodeau players) worn down earlier in their career than expected?
There’s not a ton of minutes for Deng to get. The Timberwolves likely will start Gibson at the four and have Anthony Tolliver behind him. Thibodeau doesn’t really go deep into his bench beyond that.
But the deal looks like it will soon be done, and then we’ll see what Deng still has in the tank.
The Lakers landing Kyrie Irving in free agency this summer might be their best realistic option. It’s far, far from a lock — the Knicks, and yes Celtics, will make their pitch, too — but reuniting the pair that won a title in Cleveland is on the Lakers’ radar. (Insert your own, “you know who should coach this team” Tyronn Lue joke here.)
Fueling the speculation, LeBron James and Irving were seen hanging out together at a club in Los Angeles recently. Then Friday, this happened: Cuffthelegend posted this on Instagram and LeBron liked it.
(For the record, Cuffthelegend gets some stuff right, he’s not a guy who posts stuff out of nowhere.)
Of course, NBA Twitter and the web responded to this in its usual measured, thoughtful way. Some Lakers fans think the deal is done, others mock the idea altogether.
Two thoughts on Irving and the Lakers:
• Multiple reports say Irving is open to it. Irving also has a strong relationship with Kevin Durant, and Boston still plans to trade for Anthony Davis and then try to re-sign Irving (even if Boston fans are done with Kyrie). The only person who knows which way Irving is leaning right now is Irving, and there’s a good chance he changes his mind in the next five weeks anyway.
• If the Lakers are going to land a star free agent this summer, it will be because LeBron was an active recruiter. These elite players have options, and the Laker front office is not inspiring confidence of late, it will be on LeBron to win guys over.
Jeremy Lin has discussed people not believing he plays in the NBA.
It apparently still happens.
Lin, whose Raptors are playing the Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals, via Bill Michaels Sports Talk Network:
After Game 2 in Milwaukee, I was trying to get to the team bus and one of the dudes in the Milwaukee arena just screams at me. He’s like, “Where do you think you’re going?!” And I’m like, “Uh, I’m trying to get to the team bus.” He’s like, “What?! Where’s your pass?” I was like, “I don’t have a pass. I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t have a pass.”
This happens in a lot of arenas, so I just kind of go with the flow.
It’s a fine line. Lin shouldn’t be profiled as a non-athlete because he’s Asian-American. Arena staffers should keep everyone safe by stopping unauthorized people.
Will Kyrie Irving stay in Boston? If not, what is Plan B?
Is Jimmy Butler back in Philadelphia next season? If he is will Tobias Harris be back?
What are the next steps to turn Denver into a contender?
I get into all of those things with the wise Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports (and Celtics Blog, and Real GM), we break down those three teams recently turned out of the playoffs. We also start off talking about teams actually in the playoffs, particularly Toronto’s comeback in the Eastern Conference Finals, and how those teams can take advantage against the Warriors with Kevin Durant out.
As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.
We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.
Just four years ago, Nikola Jokic was a second-round pick still playing in the Adriatic League. Just three years ago, he was battling a struggling Jusuf Nurkic to be the Nuggets’ main center.
Yesterday, Jokic made the All-NBA first team.
Jokic has risen incredibly quickly. Before this season, he had never even been an All-Star.
That makes Jokic the first non-rookie in NBA history to make an All-NBA first team without a prior All-Star season (including ABA All-Stars).
The No. 41 pick in the 2014 draft, Jokic is just the fourth second-rounder to make an All-NBA first team since the NBA-ABA merger. The others: DeAndre Jordan, Marc Gasol and Marc Price.
For most players not immediately deemed to hold first-round talent, it takes a while to build stature in the NBA. Jokic made the All-NBA first team in just his fourth season. That’s way sooner than Gasol (seventh season), Price (seventh season) and Jordan (eighth season):
The Nuggets didn’t wait for this honor to make Jokic their franchise player. They gave him a near-max contract last summer, and by leading them into the second round of the playoffs, he triggered incentives to reach a max salary.
Denver has built a young supporting cast – mainly Jamal Murray and Gary Harris – to grow with Jokic. The Nuggets also signed veteran Paul Millsap, whose defense complements Jokic’s offensive-minded game.
So much is coming together so quickly for Denver, and Jokic’s honor is just the latest example.