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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.

Miami guard Goran Dragic doubtful to return to game with foot injury

Goran Dragic injury
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Goran Dragic, like seemingly every member of the Miami Heat, couldn’t find his rhythm in the first half — 3-of-8 shooting, three assists, but some missed defensive assignments as the Heat started to fall behind.

Part of that may have been a foot injury — Dragic did not come out for the second half and his return is doubtful with a left foot injury, the Heat announced.

There are no other details on the injury as of yet.

Tyler Herro started the second half for Miami in his place.

The Heat has struggled with the Lakers length — and Los Angeles can’t miss from three — with that has the Heat down 26 early in the third quarter.

L.A. Lakers will stay big, start Dwight Howard at center

Dwight Howard start
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While it is easy to say the Lakers’ best lineups have Anthony Davis at center, the numbers say the Lakers are best playing big with another player at center and Davis at the four.

That’s how the Lakers will start the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat on Wednesday — and Dwight Howard gets the call, the team announced.

This start was expected, especially after how well Dwight Howard played in the Denver series against Nikola Jokic.

It creates an interesting defensive choice for Erik Spoelstra and the Heat: Do they start Bam Adebayo on Davis and have Jae Crowder on Howard, or reverse that. Adebayo is an All-Defensive Team player who may be the best one-on-one matchup in the league for Davis,  but does Spoelstra want to risk early foul trouble for his star center, and would it wear Adebayo down to have to work so hard on both ends. Expect Crowder to start on Davis and Adebayo to get the key minutes later in the game.

The challenge for the Lakers: Howard fouls a lot.

“Probably fouling,” Laker coach Frank Vogel said when asked what was at the top of the team scouting report for the Heat. “I think they are great at getting to the free throw line. If we can play with discipline, not give them opportunities to shoot free throws, set their defense, that will help us win games, because they are great at getting to the free throw line.”

Howard can’t mess that plan up for Los Angeles. But he’s going to get the chance.

 

Two men charged with taking over NBA player’s social media accounts, selling info

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ASSOCIATED PRESS — A Louisiana man and a Florida man allegedly gained access to professional athletes’ social media accounts and either sold the information or used it to extort payments, according to federal criminal complaints released Wednesday.

Trevontae Washington and Ronnie Magrehbi each face wire fraud conspiracy and computer fraud conspiracy counts filed by the U.S. attorney’s office in New Jersey.

The 21-year-old Washington, of Thibodaux, Louisiana, allegedly obtained usernames and passwords for multiple NFL and NBA players and sold access to the information.

Magrehbi, 20, of Orlando, Florida, allegedly obtained an NFL player’s email and Instagram account information and extorted money by publishing explicit photos of the player and threatening to publish more.

Washington and Magrehbi were scheduled to make initial court appearances Wednesday in their respective states. They were not alleged to have worked together on the scams.

Their alleged victims included two NFL players and one NBA player, all of whom lived in New Jersey at the time of the alleged crimes.

According to the complaint, Washington used a “phishing” scam — requesting login information purportedly for a legitimate purpose — to gain access to the accounts of one NFL player in 2018 and locked the player out of the accounts.

Washington also took over the accounts of at least two other players, and acknowledged to investigators after his arrest last year that he had sold access to players’ accounts for between $500 and $1,000 each, the complaint alleged.

Magrehbi also used phishing to take over the social media accounts of an NFL player living in New Jersey in 2018 who eventually paid him $500, according to the complaint.

A few days later, explicit images of the player were posted to his Twitter and Instagram accounts and he was asked for an additional $2,500 to prevent the publishing of additional photos, the complaint alleged. The request came from a prepaid cellphone linked to Magrehbi, according to the complaint.

Court personnel for the Eastern District of Louisiana didn’t provide information on an attorney representing Washington. A message was left Wednesday at the Middle District of Florida seeking attorney information for Magrehbi.

Wire fraud conspiracy is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Computer fraud conspiracy has a five-year maximum sentence.

LeBron James, Anthony Davis have two of top three selling jerseys during bubble

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The Los Angeles Lakers have the biggest, most popular brand of any NBA franchise. LeBron James is the biggest brand of any active NBA player, nationally and globally.

Combine them and it sells a lot of jerseys.

LeBron sold more jerseys during the NBA restart in Orlando than any other player, the NBA announced Wednesday, hours before LeBron and his Lakers tipped off in the NBA Finals. LeBron’s teammate, Anthony Davis, was third on the list. Here is the list released by the NBA.

Top 15 Most Popular NBA Jerseys

1. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
2. Luka Dončić, Dallas Mavericks
3. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
4. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
6. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
7. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
8. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
9. Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers
10. Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
11. Kemba Walker, Boston Celtics
12. Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets
13. Russell Westbrook, Houston Rockets
14. Nikola Jokić, Denver Nuggets
15. Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies

A few notes of interest:

• The sixth and seventh best selling jerseys were players who did not suit up in the bubble, Curry and Durant.
• Rookie Ja Morant sold the 15th most jerseys, making his first appearance on this list, while Zion Williamson did not make the top 15.
• Second is the highest Luka Doncic has ever finished on this list, his spectacular play in the bubble helped spike his popularity.
• These results are based on NBAStore.com sales from July 30 through Sept. 28.

Top 10 Most Popular Team Merchandise

1. Los Angeles Lakers
2. Boston Celtics
3. Chicago Bulls
4. Miami Heat
5. Golden State Warriors
6. Toronto Raptors
7. Dallas Mavericks
8. Milwaukee Bucks
9. Portland Trail Blazers
10. Denver Nuggets