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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.

Report: Mike Woodson close to joining Suns coaching staff

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The Phoenix Suns are bolstering their coaching staff. After spending most the 2017-18 season under interim head coach Jay Triano, Phoenix finally settled on Igor Kokoskov as their top man.

Now, it appears they’re adding some veteran talent to the front row.

According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Suns are in talks to bring former New York Knicks coach Mike Woodson in as Kokoskov’s right hand man. Meanwhile, ArizonaSports.com is reporting that the decision has already been made to hire Woodson.

Via Twitter:

Woodson, 60, was last on the bench with the Los Angeles Clippers from 2014-2018. He was head coach of the Knicks from 2012-2014, and helmed the Atlanta Hawks from 2004-2010.

This is a smart hire for the Suns, who have needed some legitimacy after firing Earl Watson just three games into the season this year. Phoenix has been in a bit of a freefall since letting Jeff Hornacek go in 2015. Indeed, despite for one outlying 48-win season in 2013-14, Phoenix hasn’t been a very good team in this decade.

With a solidified coaching staff and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, there’s hope yet for the Suns. Now, the question is who they take with that pick. Luka Doncic? Deandre Ayton? The draft continues to intrigue.

Andre Iguodala out for Game 4 Tuesday vs. Rockets

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“When we’re right, when we’re playing how we are supposed to play, Andre’s right in the middle of it. His defense and being smart, making good decisions. Andre is one of the guys who seems to set the tone for that for us.”

That’s Warriors coach Steve Kerr on Andre Iguodala

The Warriors are going to have to be without that tone Tuesday night, Iguodala will miss the game with a knee contusion.

This is a blow to the Warriors, who have started small with Iguodala through the first three games of this series. The Warriors have been 4.3 points per 100 possessions better with Iguodala on the court through the first three games of this series.

Expect Kevon Looney or Nick Young to start, with the rest of the minutes divided up between Shaun Livingston, Jordan Bell, and David West.

Whatever Kerr and the Warriors go with, expect James Harden and the Rockets to attack it.

 

WNBA team rehearses ring ceremony at practice of team it beat in Finals

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The NBA does petty very, very, very, very, very, very, very well.

The WNBA is trying to give the NBA a run for its money.

The Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks have met in the last two WNBA Finals, the Lynx winning last year and the Sparks winning the year before. Minnesota hosted Los Angeles in the season opener Sunday, and the Lynx unveiled their banner and presented players with rings.

Before that, while the Sparks were practicing in Minnesota, the Lynx played their video for the event.

Holly Rowe of ESPN:

The Sparks beat the Lynx on Sunday, but I don’t think that’s enough to override Minnesota’s power move.

Kobe Bryant on Kanye West’s comments: “What the hell are you talking about?”

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Kanye West, the President Trump backing hip-hop star, drew a lot of backlash for his comments on TMZ:

“When you hear about slavery for 400 years — for 400 years? That sounds like a choice. You were there for 400 years and it’s all of y’all. It’s like we’re mentally imprisoned.” 

Mentally, maybe in some cases. But more so physically, with guns and whips and attack dogs and a whole lot more weapons that were all on one side. Nobody chooses slavery.

Tuesday, Kobe Bryant surprised a group of about 300 high school students at WE RISE — a 10-day pop-up festival dedicated to sparking a movement for change in the mental health system — in Downtown Los Angeles. One of the students asked him about Kanye’s comments. Kobe is not down.

“I’m sure (I feel) the same way everybody else here in this room feels. What the hell are you talking about? I think that was my reaction as is everybody else’s reaction….

“The thing about our country is that you have the right to say whatever it is that you want to say…that’s the beautiful thing about living in a democracy. I think, for him, he’s one of these entertainers that’s always in a constant state of growth, he’s always challenging … himself, doing a lot of questioning internally himself…so I just take it for what it is and completely disagree.”

If I need to explain to you why Kobe is in the right here, you need to take a basic American history course again.

Good on Kobe for his comments. More importantly, good on Kobe for taking the time to promote mental health awareness.

“It’s easy for us as people to kind of ignore the emotional side of it,  especially when it comes to things that deal with negativity, things that deal with insecurity, things that deal with fear,” Kobe said. “It’s very easy to take the fear and just push it down, try to act like it doesn’t exist. The reason why it starts with imagination is because you first must imagine the life that you want to have. You must first imagine what it is you dream of becoming.”

Kobe did that, and now he’s got an Oscar. Oh, and a few basketball awards, too.