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.