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Report: Jimmy Butler tiring of Karl-Anthony Towns, wants to play with Kyrie Irving

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Jimmy Butler has emphasized how much he want to play with Kyrie Irving. They even looked into teaming up last summer.

But the Bulls traded Butler to the Timberwolves, and the Cavaliers traded Irving to the Celtics.

Could the stars join forces next summer?

Both hold player options. Irving won’t sign an extension with Boston. Butler can’t get a max extension from Minnesota (which will still offer as much as it can now) and has problems with teammates Andrew Wiggins and apparently Karl-Anthony Towns.

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

A league source close to the situation told the Sun-Times on Tuesday that Kyrie Irving and former Bulls All-Star Jimmy Butler are still trying to figure out a way to play together.

As for Butler, a league source said that he also has no intentions of signing an extension with Minnesota, all but fed up with the nonchalant attitude of his younger teammates, specifically Karl-Anthony Towns.

Stars talk about teaming up far more often than they actual team up. But the ramifications are significant enough to take even the possibility seriously – especially with both Irving and Butler both headed toward 2019 unrestricted free agency.

I understand friction between Butler and Wiggins/Towns. Butler is on a higher competitive level than those two, and it sometimes seems to drive Butler mad those younger players don’t match his intensity. For now, Butler’s approach appears to be putting the Timberwolves on his back and dragging them as far as he can. But once he hits free agency, he might relieve himself of that burden.

Of course, Towns (22) and Wiggins (23) are young and still developing. They might improve their competitiveness next season to the point Butler enjoys Minnesota more.

And teammates aren’t the only factor in where players sign. If Minnesota offers the most money next summer, Butler might not turn that down to play with Irving.

If he does, where might Butler and Irving attempt to team up? Celtics? Knicks? Nets? Bulls? Timberwolves?

Don’t even get started on Minnesota trading Towns for Irving. The Timberwolves wouldn’t without a pledge from Irving to re-sign and probably not even then. I doubt Irving is longing to spend the rest of his career in Minnesota.

But maybe, just maybe, there’s a way for Butler and Irving to unite with the Timberwolves or another team.

Bulls name Karen Umlauf summer-league assistant coach

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Spurs assistant Becky Hammon has advanced further than any female coach in NBA history, but she’s not the only woman in the league’s coaching ranks.

Nancy Lieberman (Kings), Jenny Boucek (Kings), Natalie Nakase (Clippers) and Nicki Gross (Raptors) have roles in their franchises.

Add Karen Umlauf (Bulls) to the list.

Umlauf has worked 34 years for Chicago, most recently as Senior Director of Basketball Administration. She’ll also serve as an assistant coach to Randy Brown on the Bulls’ summer-league team.

Sam Smith of Bulls.com:

She has already been transitioning into the staff basketball operations role with film and draft work with the coaches and in practices this past season.

“We probably have waited too long to give her an opportunity like this,” said Bulls Executive Vice-president of Basketball Operations John Paxson. “We all think the world of Karen. She’s a smart basketball person and this gives her an opportunity. Gar (Forman, general manager) and I talked to her a while back and said we’d like to do something along these lines. She’s a talented person, a longtime Chicago Bull.

“She’s got a different perspective than maybe any of the other coaches we have,” said Paxson. “We all view the game through our own lenses and Karen has looked at the game differently and that can be a good thing; sometimes ideas come from that. Given how she has been traveling and doing things with the coaches this season, this an opportunity to learn even more and we’ll see where it leads.”

Companies, including NBA teams, should mine as wide of a pool as possible for employees. That creates the best chance of hiring the best people.

Women are definitely underrepresented in NBA coaching, and teams would do well to give them more consideration. It has been a slow process – too slow, even Paxson acknowledges.

But this is progress.

DeMarcus Cousins says he got no other offers, though that sounds like semantics at best

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DeMarcus Cousins is signing a one-year contract with the Warriors for just the $5,337,000 taxpayer mid-level exception.

Why did he accept so little from Golden State rather than getting more elsewhere?

Marc Spears of The Undefeated on ESPN:

He told me he got zero offers. Zero offers. This is a four-time All-Star, one of the best players in the world. Zero offers. So, he was certainly confused, certainly hurt.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

Even so, the Pelicans still had something like $13.7 million to spend before bumping into the luxury tax. They could have outbid the Warriors paltry $5.3 million deal — the mini-midlevel exception for tax teams.

They didn’t. The Pelicans had a tentative meeting scheduled with Cousins in the coming days, per sources close to the situation. That will obviously not happen.

Scott Kushner of The Advocate:

Will Guillory of The Times-Picayune:

What constitutes an offer? It’s sometimes such a silly distinction. If Cousins knew what the Pelicans were willing to pay him, that counts for me. I don’t care whether they formally presented it yet if everyone understood Cousins could have gotten that amount.

By not calling it an “offer,” New Orleans can say it wasn’t rejected and Cousins can build an narrative around being slighted and the chip on his shoulder growing.

How much were the Pelicans willing to pay Cousins? We might never know the specifics, but it clearly wasn’t the full max and probably wasn’t anywhere close.

Were truly no other teams interested? The Celtics were reportedly runner-up for him, so it seems they were. But Cousins’ torn Achilles is scary and could significantly diminish his production. There are also teams that want nothing to do with him and his attitude. Perhaps most importantly, few teams have more cap space than the mid-level exception. Even teams that value Cousins – injury, moodiness and all – far higher than what he’ll get from Golden State might not have had the cap room to do anything about it.

So, I’m not convinced Cousins’ salary with the Warriors reflects the league-wide opinion on his value – even if that’s how it’s being spun.

Report: LeBron James told Lakers he’s excited to play with Lonzo Ball

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Remember when NBA teams generally agreed LaVar Ball wouldn’t deter them from acquiring Lonzo Ball.

That sure changed in a hurry.

The Spurs reportedly don’t want Lonzo and the accompanying circus in return for Kawhi Leonard.

Do the Lakers still want Lonzo after nabbing LeBron James? LeBron and LaVar beefed last year, and the Lakers just signed Rajon Rondo at point guard.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

I’m skeptical LeBron said this. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t. But it sounds like the type of thing the Lakers would put out to keep up appearances, accurate or not.

Lonzo is a smart player with high-end court vision and passing ability, and he could fit fine with LeBron. A good cutter and lob-finisher, Lonzo brings off-ball skills. It’d help if he shot better from beyond the arc, but I wouldn’t rule that out. Despite his funky motion, he was more effective at UCLA and maybe needed a year to adjust to the deeper NBA arc.

But then there’s LaVar, who threatens to annoy the heck out of LeBron with attention-grabbing stunts. The Lakers have added goofballs in JaVale McGee and Lance Stephenson, so maybe LeBron is cool with the noise. But, if he tires of LaVar, LeBron also wields the power to get Lonzo traded.

It might depend on the return Lonzo would fetch and how Rondo is playing. Neither Lonzo nor Rondo is a clear championship-level starting point guard at this point. Generally, the Lakers are smart to hedge their bets rather than rely on solely Lonzo.

LeBron famously gave Lonzo advice after a Lakers-Cavaliers game last season. So, there is a connection.

Strong enough to keep Lonzo in Los Angeles with LeBron? I’m in wait-and-see mode, though this report nudges me slightly toward the affirmative.

Report: Celtics were runner-up to Warriors for DeMarcus Cousins

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DeMarcus Cousins is signing with the Warriors, the best team in the NBA.

His backup plan? Signing with the Celtics, the best team in a post-LeBron James Eastern Conference.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

The Celtics probably could have squeezed Cousins into the $8,641,000 non-taxpayer mid-level exception, but that would have compromised the rest of the roster. Boston might have also been offering the $5,337,000 taxpayer mid-level exception (which Golden State will pay Cousins).

It seems Cousins – recovering from a torn Achilles – came to terms with a tepid market this year and wanted to play for a winner while rebuilding his stock. The question became where.

Cousins was linked to the Celtics repeatedly before the Kings traded him to the Pelicans, and he would have been an interesting high-upside addition in Boston. But he went where he’d make the biggest splash, and if he gets healthy, he might help render the playoffs a dull romp for Golden State.

Today, though, Cousins’ choice makes the NBA far more interesting.