CLEVELAND: Kyrie Irving is expected to reach two milestones today when he is announced as both a starter in this season’s All-Star Game and selected to the USA Basketball Men’s National team.
All-Star starters will be announced tonight and Irving held a decisive lead for second place among guards in the most recent balloting returns. He is expected to start alongside the Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade in the backcourt for the Eastern Conference and will join Shawn Kemp and LeBron James as the only Cavs players to start an All-Star Game in franchise history.
A Team USA source, speaking on condition of anonymity because no invitations had been released, told the Beacon Journal last summer Irving was a near-lock to make the FIBA World Cup team that will compete in Spain next summer. For now, today’s announcement is simply to name the 25-30 player pool that will comprise the USA Basketball Men’s National Team for this summer’s World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.
Actual invitations for the World Cup team aren’t expected to be extended until after the NBA season.
Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller also participated in a Team USA minicamp last summer, but seem long shots to be selected to the national team at this point. As Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski said last summer, however, the player evaluations are an ongoing process.
“It’s not just for the next team,” Krzyzewski said. “As you get to know these guys, you track their careers. There may be other things in the future. A guy who is 22 here, at 26, he’s going to be a different player. It has been a good formula for us to have a fluid pool of players. It has worked out well. We’re not going to change it.”
Luol Deng didn’t completely dismiss the possibility of returning to the Chicago Bulls next season, but then he delivered a veiled shot to Bulls ownership and management.
“Maybe they’ll offer me three years, $30 million,” Deng said. “That might be an option to take.”
That was the Bulls’ final offer to him — which signified a pay cut — before they traded him to the Cavs two weeks ago. Deng can be a free agent this summer and has said he’s open to signing long term with the Cavs. He didn’t dismiss returning to Chicago, but the relationship seemed to sour through some of Deng’s injuries over the years.
“I love Chicago,” he said. “I have been there 10 years. There’s no bad blood or anything. What happened, happened. It is what it is. For me to sit here and say I’m taking Chicago out of the equation, that’s stupid. I was there for 10 years.”
Deng is still having a hard time separating himself from the Bulls. He said he downloaded the NBA app for his phone and selected the Bulls as his favorite team when he played in Chicago. Now he doesn’t know how to change it.
“It’s really annoying when you get updates of the Bulls on your phone,” he said. “I’m trying to change getting all these Joakim Noah double-double updates. I gotta get rid of that.”
As part of the “WWE Night” promotion, wrestlers Dolph Ziggler and The Miz presented Tristan Thompson with a WWE championship belt prior to Wednesday’s game. Ziggler, whose real name is Nick Nemeth, wrestled at Kent State and set a school record (that has since been broken) with 121 career victories between 2000-03. The Miz, whose real name is Mike Mizanin, grew up in Parma.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.