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Three Things to Know: Paul George makes MVP case, Thunder bottle up Greek Freak in win

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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) Paul George makes MVP case, Thunder bottle up Greek Freak in win.
Games like this make one think the Thunder truly are the second best team in the West.

They have the two qualities that make them elite. One is that they defend well — third best defense in the NBA on the season and on Sunday they focused everything on slowing down Giannis Antetokounmpo. OKC players blocked seven Antetokounmpo shots in the game (the most blocks on any one player in a game this season) and they held him to 0-of-6 shooting in the first half. Mostly Thunder defenders were just in his face: The Greek Freak shot 3-of-15 on contested shots in the game (via player tracking). Antetokounmpo still finished with 27 points and 18 boards — he is the Greek Freak, after all — but the Thunder reigned in one of the leading MVP candidates.

Then Paul George made his MVP case — including a massive dagger slam over Antetokounmpo.

George finished with 36 points on 21 shots and went 8-of-12 from three sparking the 118-112 Thunder win.

One game does not win anyone the MVP award (or even a vote), but George is having the best season of his career and was in the mix for a spot on the ballot already. This is the kind of big national game that sticks in voter’s minds when it comes time to cast a ballot in April. George also is in the mix for Defensive Player of the Year the way he has played this season.

Oh, and almost as an afterthought, Russell Westbrook had 13 points, 13 rebounds, and 11 assists.

2) Chris Paul returns, James Harden drops 40, Rockets get the win against the Magic. James Harden scored 40 points to continue his insane streak Sunday, and that wasn’t even the best news in the Rockets’ locker room.

Chris Paul is back.

The future Hall of Fame point guard missed 17 games with a strained hamstring, and while the Rockets went 12-5 in those games it was because Harden went supernova and carried the team. He needs some help (Harden can sustain this longer than some think, but remember how he’s worn down in the playoffs before?).

CP3 was solid: 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting, 2-of-5 from three, six assists and a key steal, all in 25 minutes of action. There were moments he looked rusty, but he was also making plays like this.

Harden was just Harden, where the amazing has almost become the expected.

3) Carmelo Anthony gets standing ovation back in New York. If ‘Melo needed something to build up his confidence, he got it.

Anthony — currently in NBA limbo on the Bulls’ roster but not with the team as they look for a trade, then after the Feb. 7 trade deadline they will buy him out — went to Madison Square Garden Sunday to watch his friend Dwyane Wade in his final New York appearance.

The reaction ‘Melo got was amazing, they still love him in NYC.

After a rough season of not fitting in, Anthony could use that.

Anthony said to reporters he just wants to go somewhere where he is happy. It’s hard to envision what that is in a way that would fit with teams and where his game is at, but hopefully he finds that place.

Report: Celtics wouldn’t include Jayson Tatum in Anthony Davis trade talks


Anthony Davis is headed to the Los Angeles Lakers. The New Orleans Pelicans got a significant haul in exchange for their beleaguered star, and LeBron James is openly happy his team finally got the player they wanted all along.

Other favorites to land Anthony Davis this offseason were the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks. Danny Ainge had to wait until after July 1 to make a trade for Davis thanks to some special CBA rules regarding Kyrie Irving‘s contract.

But that no longer appears to be on the table, in part because Boston decided not to offer Jayson Tatum in any deal for Davis. Thought to be the crown jewel of any potential Celtics-Pelicans trade, there was also concern by Ainge that Davis would not re-sign in Beantown.

Via Twitter:

This runs contrary to everything we’ve heard about Boston going after Davis. Ainge has always been one to leverage his assets in a way that’s less conservative than other team execs. Plus, the reports have been that the Celtics were not concerned about Davis re-signing. Perhaps Davis gave them a little extra information, telling them directly that he would not re-sign? Davis’ agent Rich Paul said as much publicly, but what’s posturing and what’s negotiating isn’t one in the same.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Pelicans and Lakers will complete the deal on July 6. There’s a lot of time before we hit that date, and Pelicans leader David Griffin won’t back out of his deal with L.A. But the fact there’s still time on the table and the Celtics didn’t change their tune on Tatum tells us all the information we need to know.

Rumor: LeBron James hoping Kyrie Irving might join Lakers despite Nets talk


The Anthony Davis trade saga is finally over. The deal between the New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Lakers hasn’t been completed yet, and is expected to be done on July 6.

For now, L.A. can move its attention elsewhere to look for another star. The Lakers will have significant cap space — $23.7 million, according to Adrian Wojnarowski and Bobby Marks — and they’ll need another star.

Talk recently has been that former LeBron James running mate Kyrie Irving is headed to the Brooklyn Nets. But no deal is officially in place, and free agency hasn’t started. According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, there are folks in LeBron’s camp who are hopeful that Irving could still join L.A.

Via The Athletic:

Just days before the Davis deal was done, a source close to James indicated some optimism that – Nets noise be darned – Irving was still in play for the Lakers.

Remember, Irving and James had a heart-to-heart talk earlier in the season. They hashed out what happened in Cleveland, with Irving apologizing to James for how he acted as a younger man.

That sparked speculation that Irving could be looking to join LeBron with the Lakers this summer when he had the ability to opt out of his contract with the Boston Celtics.

We haven’t even reached the 2019 NBA draft yet, and already free agency is ramping up and getting crazy. This July is going to be wild, and until the music stops and the butts are in the seats, don’t count anyone as being a sure thing for any team just yet.

There’s already an Anthony Davis Lakers mural up in Los Angeles (PHOTO)


Anthony Davis isn’t in Los Angeles yet. In fact the trade between the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans hasn’t been completed, and reportedly won’t be completed until July 6.

But that doesn’t mean that Lakers fans aren’t already anticipating his arrival.

On Instagram Sunday, Venice muralist Gustavo Zermeño Jr. posted an incredible new rendering of Davis, draped in Forum blue and gold.

Via Twitter:

Zermeño is the artist who painted one of the LeBron James murals that was defaced in L.A. last summer.

The Lakers did nothing right last season, and are a train wreck of an organization. Despite that, they have landed one of the best players in the NBA and if he can stay healthy they should be able to find their way back to the playoffs next season. There’s lots of work to do on this Lakers roster, and as much as people want to jump to conclusions, it’ll take some filling out before they’re contenders.

Davis is a step in the right direction, but this whole thing could go in the direction of “Now This Is Going To Be Fun” very quickly.

Never put it past Lakers fans to go all in. Less than 24 hours from the announcement of the trade and we already have a mural of Davis.

Reports: Pelicans fielding calls from teams interested in No. 4 pick


The trade for Anthony Davis has not been completed yet. The New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Lakers are apparently not expected to finalize the deal until July 6.

But one thing that could throw those plans out the window is if GM David Griffin gets another offer before Thursday’s NBA Draft. According to multiple reports, teams have been calling the Pelicans interested in the No. 4 overall pick they gleaned in the deal in principle for Davis.

Via Twitter:

From a distance it appears Griffin is not looking to completely rebuild from the bottom. His roster isn’t really set up for that, anyway. Jrue Holiday is already 29, and having two 19 or 20-year-olds would necessitate waiting longer to contend than perhaps Holiday’s contract lasts.

Still, it’s not as though Griffin couldn’t have another deal in principle in place by Thursday for that pick. Teams select for other teams all the time. A wink-and-handshake deal could be done so the Pelicans select for whomever a potential trade partner wants at that No. 4 spot.

The NBA is a weird place so I wouldn’t be surprised if this deal gets done earlier, or even later as Adrian Wojnarowski has suggested is possible. At the end of the day, the outcome is that Davis is on the Lakers despite that organization doing absolutely nothing right to get him there other than being in L.A.