Why wouldn’t LeBron James answer question about unfollowing Cavaliers on Twitter?

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LeBron James unfollowed the Cavaliers on Twitter.

A signal ahead of him leaving Cleveland in free agency this summer?

A passive-aggressive stunt to get the organization’s attention?

A slip of the finger on his phone?

We don’t know, because LeBron refused to answer a question about it:

Not only did LeBron say “next question,” he was so unraveled, he didn’t answer the next question – a softball about Cleveland dishing a season high in assists in a win over the Nuggets. If he didn’t want to throw fire onto what could’ve been an innocent situation, he did a terrible job.

Still, this could be nothing. LeBron, who recently said the Cavaliers weren’t ready for the playoffs, might just be trying to set that tone. After all, he famously self-imposes a social-media blackout each postseason.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

James’ unfollowing of the Cavs was sort of a preamble, the source said. He’s starting to pare down some of the “noise” without shutting off his account entirely.

James didn’t just unfollow @cavs – the official Twitter account of the team for which he’s supposed to deliver a championship.

He also unfollowed Allie Clifton, the team’s sideline reporter for Fox Sports Ohio, with whom he’s had a cordial, friendly, professional relationship for two seasons.

James also unfollowed the Twitter account of Austin Carr, the Cavs’ in-game analyst for Fox and a team legend, whom James admires. He parted ways with the account of ESPN Cavs reporter Dave McMenamin, and NBA reporter Chris Broussard, and Sports Illustrated’d Lee Jenkins. It was to Jenkins whom James dictated his essay announcing his return to Cleveland in the summer of 2014.

In all, James unfollowed 14 accounts recently – he’s down to 153 from 167. According to the source close to James, most were NBA media types and basketball-related accounts.

That’s certainly believable. But why wouldn’t LeBron just say that? A simple answer along those lines would’ve quashed most doubts – including potential suspicions from within the organization and locker room – about ulterior motives.

LeBron knows how much attention his Twitter account has generated thanks to his spat of cryptic tweets in recent weeks. He can’t be surprised people want to know why he unfollowed the Cavs’ official account.

He also can’t find this too small to discuss. He has talked plenty about his annual playoff social-media blackout. LeBron likes the attention, and I say that without casting aspersions. He’s entitled to build his platform however he can and enjoy the adulation many are happy to provide.

LeBron also has a history of using his large profile to feed his passive-aggressive tendencies. It should shock nobody if this is another example. With all the attention LeBron receives, he knows how people react to clues about him.

Two summers ago, people freaked out about Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert’s plane flying to Miami and LeBron’s cars being shipped from his home there. For every person reading those tea leaves, someone said not to read too much into those events. Turns out, Gilbert was there to court LeBron, and LeBron – plus his belongings, including his cars – was leaving for Cleveland.

There’s a side of LeBron that enjoys controversy, and my best guess is he’s just eating up the attention this has created. Whether he intentionally unfollowed the Cavs or not, he might just be enjoying the resulting intrigue. Maybe the mute function would’ve been more graceful, though if he’s ditching social media in a few weeks anyway, the difference is merely optics. I tend to believe this is a minor to meaningless issue.

But if LeBron does something drastic and leaves the Cavaliers in a more meaningful way, you can’t say you never saw it coming.

Knicks’ Obi Toppin out at least 2-3 weeks with knee fracture

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Obi Toppin is a fan favorite and Knicks faithful were hoping to see more of him as the season progresses.

However, they are not going to see any of him for at least the next 2-3 weeks due to a fractured knee, the team announced.

Toppin suffered the injury in New York’s win Wednesday over Atlanta, the same game that saw Dejounte Murray sprain his ankle leading him to be out for a few weeks.

Toppin — the reigning All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk contest champion — is averaging 7.7 points in 25 games off the bench. With him out, coach Tom Thibodeau suggested he could lean more on RJ Barrett, asking him to play up at the four.

Report: Zach LaVine not available for trade from Bulls

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Front offices of potential contenders from Los Angeles to Philadelphia have their eyes on the Chicago Bulls — will the struggling Bulls pivot to chase Victor Wembanyama and the top of the lottery, making them sellers at the trade deadline? Teams have interest in Chicago’s three stars: Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic.

Except just-extended LaVine isn’t currently available, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said Wednesday on his network’s pregame show discussing the Knicks.

“The Knicks will be watching Chicago. Is Zach LaVine a player who before the deadline possibly can become available? He certainly isn’t now.”

Chicago is not yet ready to pivot to tanking, so none of its stars are truly available. That said, the Bulls don’t look like a playoff team, they miss Lonzo Ball, and even if things do come together where do they stand in the East hierarchy? If the Bulls do become sellers, they aren’t going to tear this team down to the studs, it would likely be trading just one star. Possibly a second if the offer was strong enough.

LaVine — who signed a five-year, $215 million extension this past summer — is the least likely to be available, league sources have told NBC Sports. The expectation is that Vucevic would be the Bull first made available if the Bulls decide to start seriously listening to offers. And that remains an “if.”

That said, front offices around the league have their eyes trained on Chicago.

Dejounte Murray added to growing Hawks injury report, out 2-3 weeks with sprained ankle

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John Collins is out for at least another week with a sprained ankle. DeAndre Hunter has been out with a strained hip flexor.

Now you can add Dejounte Murray to the Hawks’ growing injury report, he is out at least 2-3 weeks with a sprained ankle, Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic report.

The injury happened on a closeout from RJ Barrett of the Knicks.

The Hawks have already had chemistry and fit issues this season, and missing key players for an extended period only exacerbates the problem. Atlanta looked flat getting their doors blown off by the Knicks Wednesday night, 113-89, a game that added to a string where they have lost 5-of-7. Now they will have to find a way to right the ship without their second-best playmaker.

There also is an update on the Hawks’ play-by-play announcer Bob Rathbun.

NBA, WNBA players react to news Brittney Griner coming home

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Brittney Griner is finally coming home.

The WNBA and USA Basketball star has spent 10 months in Russian prisons — including being convicted and sent to a Russian penal colony — for having vape canisters with small amounts of cannabis oil in her luggage as she went through Russian airport security back in February. She became a political pawn in the tensions between the United States and Russia, mostly surrounding Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, and was freed via a prisoner swap announced Thursday.

The basketball world — WNBA players in particular — had worked to keep her name front and not let Griner be forgotten during this ordeal, pushing President Joe Biden and the government to reach a deal. With the news Griner was freed, NBA and WNBA players took to social media to react.

“Brittney has had to endure an unimaginable situation and we’re thrilled that she is on her way home to her family and friends,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “We thank the members of the NBA and WNBA community who never wavered in their efforts to raise awareness of Brittney’s unjust circumstances.”

“We are overwhelmed with relief and gratitude that our sister Brittney Griner is finally coming home,” the NBPA said in a statement. “Her strength and courage throughout this last year have been truly remarkable, as have the efforts of her wife Cherelle, our WNBPA sisters, Terri Jackson and the WNBPA staff, who have been relentless in their call to bring Brittney home. We know this homecoming would not have been possible without their unwavering support and continued work to keep BG always top of mind, and our players are honored to have contributed to those efforts. While this is a celebratory moment for our sisters and us, we must not forget the other political prisoners who remain in dire circumstances all over the world. These individuals must be remembered and fought for every single day as BG was so that they too can have this moment. Welcome home Brittney, we are so happy to have you back! #WeAreBG”