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Cavaliers’ Deng looking for All-Star spot
by Sam Smith
Posted on Jan 9
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The Cleveland Cavaliers’ Luol Deng remains eleventh among Eastern Conference frontcourt players in the latest NBA All-Star Game fan balloting released Thursday.
There, I said it.
Luol Deng is a Cleveland Cavalier.
It’s not written on your All-Star ballot, and perhaps not in your heart. But it’s on the NBA’s list now. Friday he will be in that makes-you-blanch wine and gold jersey as the Cavaliers play their first game with Deng as starting small forward in Utah.
Deng opens his Cavaliers’ career on a five-game Western Conference road trip to the Jazz, Kings, Lakers, Trail Blazers and Nuggets. Deng plays his first Cavs home game Jan. 20 against Dallas and then Jan. 22 is home against his former team, the Bulls. The Bulls, by the way, will have to be rooting against Deng, at least the organization and fans, in Sacramento. That’s because the Bulls need the Kings to vastly improve to get that draft pick in the trade this season. The Bulls only get it in 2014 if it’s No. 13 through 30 in this draft.
Meanwhile, as it was appearing in the most recent results, Joakim Noah has the best chance of representing the Bulls in the Feb. 16 All-Star Game in New Orleans.
Noah remained seventh among frontcourt players in the fan voting. Carlos Boozer is 12th.
The fans select the starters with three front court players and two backcourt players. The fan voting goes through Jan. 20. The starters are announced on a TNT show Jan. 23. The reserves, selected by the coaches, are revealed on a TNT show Jan. 30. As a favorite of coaches and with the East not strong, Noah has a chance to make his second consecutive All-Star Game. Deng would be going for this third straight.
The starters appear set in the Eastern Conference as the voting has held consistently throughout.
The backcourt should be Dwyane Wade and Kyrie Irving and the frontcourt likely will be LeBron James, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Roy Hibbert is far behind as fourth among frontcourt players. And Derrick Rose, despite being out for the season since No. 22, remains third ahead of John Wall.
Only Hibbert, Chris Bosh and Kevin Garnett are ahead of Noah in the fan voting in the frontcourt. Bosh likely will be selected along with Hibbert as those teams are at the top of the conference. The Pacers’ David West moved into the top 15 among frontcourt players. So he could make the team as well. The East big man field narrowed with Brook Lopez and Al Horford out for the season with injuries.
So it likely will depend on the team’s record by the end of January when coaches vote. Atlanta has done well and should get a player, perhaps Paul Millsap or guard Jeff Teague. Toronto’s improvement should get them a pick, maybe DeMar DeRozan.
The Western Conference seems to be where there remains a race in the fan voting for starters.
Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard and Blake Griffin remain the top three for frontcourt. But Kevin Love is close to both Howard and Griffin and could pass either. LaMarcus Aldridge is fifth, but certainly will be added by the coaches.
In the backcourt voting, Kobe Bryant despite barely playing all season with injuries remains No.1. But Stephen Curry has passed Chris Paul to go into second place. And Paul could be out for the game with a shoulder separation, anyway. The injuries open up the field a bit in the crowded West backcourt, where Russell Westbrook also is hurt but due back before the All-Star game.
Should Deng have a strong start with the Cavaliers and the Cavaliers play well with him, there’s a chance he’d be added. And he could end up bumping Noah.
Deng met with Cleveland reporters Wednesday after the trade was finalized and he had time to reach the area. He said one of the most difficult parts of the deal was to explain to his mother, who was staying with him for the holidays, why he was being traded.
“It’s been awkward,” Deng said after practice Wednesday at the Cleveland Clinic Courts near Akron. “My mom doesn’t really understand being traded. To me that was one of the hardest things I had to do, explain to her the organization I’ve been with for nine years no longer wanted me there. She couldn’t understand why. She feels like I’m a nice guy, I get along with everybody. So I had to explain to her. She was asking me, ‘Are you not playing well? What’s going on?’
“She still doesn’t understand,” Deng said, laughing. “She knows I’m here now. I think at some point I’ll bring her out to see everything. It will change her mindset a little bit. It’s been nine years. I’m the only kid in the NBA, so she doesn’t know how it works. Packing and leaving her at the house, the timing was just bad. If she was back in London, I think it would have been really easy for me to get on the phone and tell her I’m moving to Cleveland.” Deng told reporters he filled five suitcases and left the rest behind to bring later.
Deng will wear No. 9, which was being worn by rookie Matthew Dellavedova.
“It was one of the hardest things I had to do,” Deng said of his conversation with Dellavedova. “I knew I had to speak to him at some point. I think we sat in the locker room for a little while looking at each other. It was almost like we were about to break up. It was really hard, but he’s such a nice guy. He gave up the number.”
Dellavedova now will wear No. 8.
“I’m one of nine kids,” Deng told the Cleveland reporters. “I always wore nine for my mother because she gave birth nine times. It was always my payback to her. He gave up the number. I’m definitely going to have to pay him back for that. It’s really nice of him to do that. I told him if the number meant something really strong for him, then I could wear something else.”
As for moving on, Deng told the media there, “I’ve been with the Bulls for so long I wish I would have stayed there. But things didn’t work out that way. It was a surprise. I’ve been very lucky. Not a lot of guys can say they’ve been with one organization for too long.
“When it happened, I couldn’t believe it,” said Deng. “It took a while to hit me. But it’s not like I’m stopping from playing basketball. I’ve been traded from one great organization to another one. That book is closed. I’m really looking forward to starting brand new and getting going. And it excites me that I’m leaving one team that’s very competitive and I’m coming to a team that’s just as competitive and is very excited about the future. For me, it’s great to be a part of an organization that wants to win, motivated, willing to do whatever it takes to win. And for a basketball player, for any pro athlete, that’s what you want to be a part of. I want to work hard, I want to fit in as much as I can and I want to turn it around.
“It’s a contract thing and my time has come up,” Deng said. “That’s the direction the organization chose to go. They have every right to do that. As players, sometimes we forget that we’re employees. That’s who we work for. They have the final say. I wish we would have handled the whole contract situation better. But at the end of the day, either way, I think the decision was going to have to be made. I’m sure it wasn’t an easy decision for them, either. It’s basketball and it’s my job. But the hardest thing is those are friends, It’s really hard when you wake up the next day and know that your friend is gone and he’s going to be competing against you.”
Yes, it is the first day of the rest–for now–of Luol Deng’s basketball life.
1. LeBron James (Mia) 1,076,063
2. Paul George (Ind) 899,671
3. Carmelo Anthony (NYK) 702,869
4. Roy Hibbert (Ind) 385,964
5. Chris Bosh (Mia) 304,986
6. Kevin Garnett (BKN) 164,021
7. Joakim Noah (Chi) 128,201
8. Andre Drummond (Det) 120,844
9. Tyson Chandler (NYK) 101,637
10. Jeff Green (Bos) 96,336
11. Luol Deng (Cle) 90,730
12. Carlos Boozer (Chi) 80,271
13. Paul Pierce (BKN) 72,581
14. David West (Ind) 61,612
15. Brook Lopez (BKN) 58,477
1. Dwyane Wade (Mia) 718,109
2. Kyrie Irving (Cle) 652,522
3. Derrick Rose (Chi) 323,099
4. John Wall (Was) 278,516
5. Ray Allen (Mia) 190,086
6. Rajon Rondo (Bos) 133,448
7. Deron Williams (BKN) 95,309
8. George Hill (Ind) 89,428
9. Lance Stephenson (Ind) 77,364
10. DeMar DeRozan (Tor) 68,985
1. Kevin Durant (OKC) 1,054,209
2. Dwight Howard (Hou) 509,116
3. Blake Griffin (LAC) 500,964
4. Kevin Love (Min) 483,031
5. LaMarcus Aldridge (Por) 404,793
6. Tim Duncan (Por) 385,342
7. Anthony Davis (NO) 223,956
8. Pau Gasol (LAL) 207,213
9. Andre Iguodala (GS) 192,616
10. Dirk Nowitzki (Dal) 156,792
11. DeMarcus Cousins (Sac) 148,604
12. David Lee (GS) 141,509
13. Chandler Parsons (Hou) 135,387
14. Omer Asik (Hou) 101,372
15. Kawhi Leonard (SA) 91,859
1. Kobe Bryant (LAL) 844,538
2. Stephen Curry (GS) 677,372
3. Chris Paul (LAC) 651,073
4. Jeremy Lin (Hou) 471,980
5. James Harden (Hou) 338,788
6. Russell Westbrook (OKC) 260,499
7. Tony Parker (SA) 195,328
8. Damian Lillard (Por) 162,363
9. Klay Thompson (GS) 108,404
10. Ricky Rubio (Min) 97,265