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Three Things to Know: LeBron frustrated Cavs didn’t get Paul George (who may stay in OKC)

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) LeBron frustrated Cavaliers didn’t get Paul George (who may stay with Thunder). Last June, after falling to the Warriors in the Finals, LeBron James knew the Cavaliers needed a roster upgrade, and he recruited Paul George to push for a trade to Cleveland. Cavaliers’ GM David Griffin knew an upgrade was needed, too, and almost pulled off a coup — a three-way trade that would have brought Paul George and Eric Bledsoe to Cleveland. The deal would have sent Kyrie Irving and Channing Frye to Phoenix, but fell apart because the Suns and/or Pacers (depending on who you believe) kept moving the goal posts. Phoenix didn’t want to send the No. 4 pick to Indiana in the deal (they used it to pick Josh Jackson) and without that pick the Pacers were out. In the end, Irving was traded to Boston for Isaiah Thomas (who was out injured until early January and has still not found his form) and the Brooklyn pick, while George was traded to Oklahoma City for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

Not landing George frustrated LeBron, who is close to Bledsoe and knows how much the two-way play of George is needed against the Warriors, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said while on The Lowe Post podcast. (Hat tip The LeBron Wire.)

“If you want to know what’s really pissing LeBron off, he felt like the Cavs could have had Paul George and Eric Bledsoe,” Windhorst said.

To be fair, it was not the Cavaliers that pulled out of that trade, they tried, but three-way trades are hard because three teams have to feel like they won. Phoenix wanted to rebuild with youth for the long term, not prop themselves up for a season or two with Irving. The Pacers were always looking for the best deal.

Meanwhile, George hinted he is more likely to stay in OKC past this season. George was on ESPN’s “The Jump” with Rachel Nichols (via Royce Young at ESPN) and talked about being snubbed as an All-Star in the deep west and how Russell Westbrook came hard in his defense.

“Russ is the reason why this decision is becoming even more easier to make, is the character Russ [has]. A stand-up guy, and he has his teammate’s back.”

And the hearts of Lakers fans just sank.

George’s decision on his future will hinge more on how he feels after the Thunder’s playoff run. Just as LeBron’s decision next summer hinges on how he perceives things after Cleveland’s postseason ends.

But it feels like their decisions are heading in different directions.

2) Damian Lillard looks every bit the All-Star leading Trail Blazers past Timberwolves. When Westbrook went on his PG13-pleasing All-Star rant, one of his targets was Damian Lillard, who publically had complained he always gets snubbed for the All-Star Game. Lillard didn’t this year, he made the squad, and Westbrook vented about players “talking about getting snubbed until they get in.”

Thing is, Lillard is a deserving All-Star — averaging 5.3 points per game, defending better, and keeping the Trail Blazers in the playoff picture. He showed it on Wednesday night, dropping 31 points on the Timberwolves, while dishing out six assists, in a key Trail Blazers win. He had 13 of those points in the third quarter, when Portland put up 43 and pulled away.

3) Andre Drummond, Ben Simmons took All-Star snub frustrations out on opponents. Two guys with All-Star Game snub complaints — one far more legit than the other — took out their frustrations Wednesday night on their opponents.

Detroit’s Drummond has the right to feel snubbed — he has put up All-Star numbers this season. It’s not that easy because the guys ahead of him who did make it — Al Horford in Boston and Kristaps Porzingins in New York — also were very deserving, but Drummond should feel like the odd man out. Because he was. Drummond took out his frustrations on the Jazz, putting up 30 points, grabbing 24 rebounds, and blocking four shots (all while going up against Rudy Gobert for stretches). It was an All-Star level performance.

Ben Simmons also felt snubbed, although after a hot start his game has trailed off as the first half of the season wore on. More than that, the guys taken ahead of him either are having a monster season and can’t be denied (Victor Oladipo) or are having strong years with a history behind them of having stong years (Kyle Lowry, John Wall, Bradley Beal). Still, Simmons was frustrated and used that as fuel to rack up a triple-double — 19 points, 17 rebounds, 14 assists — against the Bulls.

Ray Allen, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash headline 2018 Hall of Fame finalists

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LOS ANGELES — It’s a good year for guards.

The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame announced the Finalists for the class of 2018, and you could put together one heck of a modern NBA lineup: Steve Nash and Jason Kidd in the backcourt, Ray Allen on the wing with Grant Hill as your small-ball four and Chris Webber at center.

They were five of the 13 North American nominees for the Hall, men and women. Also very deservedly being honored with the 2018 Curt Gowdy Media Award: longtime and iconic NBA photographer Andy Bernstein, and ESPN basketball analyst Doris Burke. There are not two more deserving — or better — people.

The Hall of Fame Class of 2018 will be announced at the Saturday of the Final Four in April.

Here is who voters will be choosing amongst:

RAY ALLEN. Jesus Shuttlesworth should be a lock in his first time on the ballot, he has as pure a jump shot as the league has ever seen. Allen is a two-time NBA Champion (2008 Boston Celtics and 2013 Miami Heat), was named an All-Star 10 times, and (for now at least) is the NBA career leader in three-point field goals made. Before getting to the NBA he was a 1996 First Team All-American at UConn. Just to add to the resume, he has an Olympic gold medal (2000). But when you think of Allen, you’ll think of this shot.

JASON KIDD. Another lock to get in first ballot. Kidd one of the greatest point guards of his generation, he’s got an impressive resume as an NBA champion (2011 Dallas Mavericks), five-time All-NBA First Team, four-times All-Defensive First Team, a 10-time NBA All-Star, and the 1995 NBA Co-Rookie of the Year. At the University of California, Kidd was named Pac-10 Player of the Year and a consensus First-Team All American in 1994.

GRANT HILL. If all you remember is the post-2000, post-injury Grant Hill, you missed out. He was the 1995 Co-Rookie of the Year (with Kidd), five-times All-NBA, a seven-time NBA All-Star, and in college at Duke was a member of two NCAA national championship teams (1991, 1992). Hill also has a gold medal in the 1996 Olympic Games, and he’s been very active in philanthropic efforts off the court.

STEVE NASH. Born in South Africa and raised in Canada, Nash is a two-time NBA MVP who helped revolutionize the NBA with the seven-seconds or less Suns. He’s an eight-time NBA All-Star, and three-time All-NBA First Team member. Hie is third in all-time assists and holds the NBA record for highest career free throw percentage (.904).

MAURICE CHEEKS. A lock-down defender for most of his 15-year career, Cheeks is an NBA champion (the 1983  Philadelphia 76ers) and a four-time NBA All-Star. Cheeks is still involved in the game and is currently an assistant coach for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

CHRIS WEBBER. Nominated again, we’ll see if he gets in this time, considering his college and NBA impact he should be. Webber is a five-time NBA All-Star, three-time All-NBA, and the 1994 NBA Rookie of the Year. In college at Michigan he was a key member of the “Fab Five,” that revolutionized the college game.

CHARLES “LEFTY’ DRIESELL. Driesell is the only coach in NCAA history to win 100 games at four different schools and just one of 11 coaches to lead four schools to the NCAA Tournament. He is remembered as the coach at Maryland for many years as well as the inventor of the “Midnight Madness” concept.

HUGH EVANS. He was an NBA referee for 28 seasons, officiating nearly 2,000 regular season games, 170 NBA Playoff games, 35 NBA Finals games and four NBA All-Star games. In the summer he used to ref at Rucker Park in New York.

RUDY TOMJANOVICH. Tomjanovich coached the Houston Rockets to NBA Championships in 1994 and 1995 and is one of three coaches to win an NBA championship and an Olympic Gold Medal. He led USA Basketball to a gold medal in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

From the women’s committee:

KIM MULKEY. Mulkey has led the Baylor Bear to two NCAA National Championships (2005, 2012) and 16 NCAA Tournament appearances.

KATIE SMITH. The WNBA Finals MVP (2008) and a two-time WNBA Champion with the Detroit Shock (2006, 2008), she also has three Olympic gold medals. Smith played for the Ohio State University (1992-1996) and was the first female Buckeye athlete to have her number retired.

TINA THOMPSON. Thompson is a four-time WNBA Champion with the Houston Comets (1997- 2000) and a nine-time WNBA All-Star. She is one of the greatest WNBA players in the league’s history.

WAYLAND BAPTIST UNIVERSITY. Long before women’s college basketball became an NCAA sport in 1982, the Wayland Baptist University women’s basketball team won 131 consecutive games from 1953-58 and 10 AAU National Championships overall.

 

Joel Embiid having fun, will compete in three events All-Star Weekend

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LOS ANGELES — Joel Embiid is going to enjoy his weekend in Los Angeles. And his first All-Star Game.

Embiid played 9 minutes for the World in its dominating Rising Stars Challenge win (which is more than most people expected him to play). He’s scheduled to take part in the All-Star Saturday Skills Challenge, then is a starter on Team Steph in Sunday’s All-Star Game.

Like he always is, Embiid is just trying to enjoy himself.

“When I have fun, that means I’m dominating on the court, kicking someone’s ass, and I need that,” Embiid said Friday afternoon in Los Angeles. “Every time I have fun that’s what I do. One thing that I told myself when I came back (from injuries), just go out there and have fun because that’s another way for me to dominate the game. If I’m frustrated, usually it doesn’t go well. It can go both ways, but usually, it doesn’t go well.

“Social media, on the court, it’s all about having fun.”

When he returns to Philly, he’s got to focus on the fun of making sure the Sixers make the playoffs. But for a weekend, he’s soaking up the sun and fun in Los Angeles.

LeBron James responds to Laura Ingraham: #wewillnotshutupanddribble

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A month before the latest school shooting and mass killing in a Florida high school, Kevin Durant and LeBron James recorded a video for the Uninterrupted where they vented that president Donald Trump does not care about most people not does he try to unite them. That video dropped just after the school shooting, where the president took heat for his comments on the situation.

Taking a lazy intellectual path designed to fire up her base, Fox News host Laura Ingraham took the “stick to sports” argument to an  offensive level, saying LeBron and KD should “shut up and dribble.”

Jaylen Brown of the Celtics had already done an excellent job taking down Ingraham’s misguided attack, Durant had responded as well and called the comments ignorant and racist.

Now LeBron has responded on Instagram.

#wewillnotshutupanddribble

A post shared by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

LeBron and Durant are citizens with the right to speak out, and they should.

Hopefully, this can be the end of this “controversy,” only because Ingraham isn’t worth it.

Team USA turned Rising Stars into dunking exhibition (VIDEO)

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Nobody tunes into the Rising Stars Challenge on All-Star Friday night to see a tight defensive shell and quick rotations to help the helper. We want the game’s great young players to entertain us with their skills.

Team USA may have gotten blown out in the game, but they put on a show — they were dunking everything. As you can see above.

The best dunk of the game? Had to be Donovan Mitchell‘s self alley-oop. Which a good sign heading into Saturday’s dunk contest.