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Three things to know: Aaron Gordon talks ‘frustration’ that fueled trade request

Michael Smith and Michael Holley present why Philadelphia will remain in the thick of the playoff race in the Eastern Conference despite the injury to Joel Embiid.

The NBA season is into its second half, and we will be here each weekday with the NBC Sports daily roundup Three Things to Know — everything you might have missed in the Association, every key moment from the night before in one place.

1) Orlando’s Aaron Gordon says “frustration” fueled trade request

Aaron Gordon says he was frustrated.

Orlando Magic fans respond, “Welcome to the club.”

Gordon requested a trade out of Orlando last month and almost certainly will have a new team by Thursday afternoon’s trade deadline (
Boston is considered the frontrunner, but the door is still open). Tuesday, Gordon was asked about that trade request and was honest. Here’s his response, via Nick Friedell of ESPN:

“There’s been times where I just expressed my frustration to management,” Gordon told reporters. “Frustration with the losses, the injuries, the way we’ve been playing and how many losses have accumulated over the years. So it’s just my frustration kind of boiling over I would say...

“I think a lot of people share that sentiment with me, of frustration.”

As of right now, I’m an Orlando Magic. I’ve been here for seven years, developed a home here, a sense of love and community here. For as long as I have Orlando on my chest, Magic on my chest, I’m going to give it everything I have.

Magic fans everywhere on nodding.

Orlando has been on the treadmill of mediocrity for years, never terrible but never good or dangerous, either. They have had All-Star quality players — Nikola Vucevic is the latest — but the roster construction has always been lacking.

Orlando is looking at a rebuild, with Jonathan Isaac as a centerpiece, and maybe Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony as part of that future. Orlando should trade Gordon — and maybe Vucevic, Evan Fournier, and anyone else — in service of getting players and picks that are more on that future timeline. The roster they have isn’t working.

A rebuild is never a sure thing. But the frustration in Orlando makes it — and trading Gordon — the right move.

2) James Harden, Brooklyn outduel Lillard and Trail Blazers

This is the game TNT wished it could have flexed to — Portland and Brooklyn had their stars playing (unlike the Embiid-less 76ers beating the Curry-less Warriors that was the national broadcast).

Neither Brooklyn’s James Harden nor Portland’s Damian Lillard played their best games — they combined to shoot 12-of-41 on the night — but in the end the Nets got a little more in transition, got to the rim more often and finished better when they got there, and Harden’s 25 points and 17 dimes proved to be enough for a 116-112 win.

Brooklyn just keeps on finding ways to win, despite Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant being out. They don’t play great defense, but they play enough (the Nets held Lillard scoreless in the fourth quarter). Somebody always steps up on offense, and in this game it was Jeff Green with 20 points and a couple of late free throws to ice the win.

Durant is getting closer to a return, Nets coach Steve Nash said (via the AP):

“He has to close that critical last stage of his rehab. He is on the court every day and looks great. But he’s making sure that strength is there. We need to make sure he’s coming back to play safely. If this was the playoffs, there’s a chance he would be back very soon. But there’s no point in taking a big risk at this point in the season.“

3) New Orleans latest team to beat up on shorthanded Lakers

With LeBron James out with a sprained ankle and Anthony Davis still sidelined with his Achilles tendon/calf strain issue, the Lakers are target practice for the rest of the league. Los Angeles dropped three straight.

Tuesday night, it was the New Orleans Pelicans’ turn.

Former Laker Brandon Ingram reminded L.A. what it gave up as he posted 36 points.

Zion Williamson bullied his way to 27 points on the night.

It’s the kind of win the Pelicans could use. The Lakers role players are giving good efforts, but this is a top-heavy roster and without LeBron or AD there will be a lot of nights like this. Lakers fans shouldn’t expect help at the trade deadline unless the team is suddenly ready to surrender Talen Horton-Tucker in a deal (and they are not). Andre Drummond will likely arrive via the buyout market, which will help some.

One other note from this game: Steven Adams is going to get fined for this.

There was nothing malicious in this, but the league will not let players touch referees. It sets a bad precedent.