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NBA Star Power Index: Bradley Beal’s Twitter tirade one for the ages; Trae Young has Hawks …

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Welcome back to the NBA Star Power Index — a weekly gauge of the players who are most controlling the buzz around the league. Reminder: Inclusion on this list isn’t necessarily a good thing. It simply means that you’re capturing the NBA world’s attention. Also, this is not a ranking. The players listed are in no particular order as it pertains to the buzz they’re generating. This column will run every week through the end of the regular season. 

LeBron James was hoping to return Tuesday vs. the New York Knicks, then Wednesday vs. the Houston Rockets, and now the hope is for Saturday vs. the Indiana Pacers. The Los Angeles Lakers managed to squeak out wins against New York and Houston by a combined four points to keep their slim hopes of crawling out of the play-in tournament alive. 

But it doesn’t look good. The No. 7 Lakers trail the No. 6 Dallas Mavericks and No. 5 Portland Trail Blazers by one game, but both those teams own the tiebreaker over L.A., which makes the gap an effective two games with two to play. If Portland, Dallas and L.A. finish in a three-way tie, the Lakers would still end up No. 7 on account of Dallas being a division winner and the Blazers having a better head-to-head record (4-2) vs. L.A. and Dallas than the Lakers do (2-4) against Portland and Dallas. 

But LeBron’s return is about more than trying to make a last-minute run at a secure playoff spot. He needs reps. Rhythm. He’s only appeared in two games over the last seven weeks, and the challenges of repeating start immediately. As it stands entering play on Thursday, the Lakers would play the Golden State Warriors in the first play-in game. 

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With the way Golden State is rolling, that’s no easy task with the added dimension of LeBron working his way back into shape. If the Lakers get through the play-in round, they’ll face the Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns or Los Angeles Clippers in the first round. Even if they crawl to No. 6, they’ll face the Suns, Clippers or Nugget out of the chute. 

Trae Young is averaging 33 points and nine assists over his last three games. The Hawks have won five of their last six and clinched a top-six seed on Wednesday. Atlanta is no joke. Since Nate McMillan took over for Lloyd Pierce on March 2, the Hawks are plus-4.9 per 100 possessions in Young’s minutes, the exact same mark as the Mavs in Luka Doncic’s minutes and the Nuggets in Nikola Jokic’s minutes. 

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Young still isn’t a consistent 3-point shooter. He’s six for his last 30 from deep and is shooting under 35 percent for the season. But he’s reined in his attempts, from 9.5 per game last season to 6.4 this season, and has particularly curbed his early shot-clock bombs. Young is a master at getting into the paint. His floater is basically indefensible. He has the annoyingly effective knack for getting to the free-throw line, where he’s made 40 straight and 99 of his last 102 attempts. 

On Wednesday night, the Hawks clinched their first playoff appearance since 2017. They are 25-11 since Nate McMillan took over as coach and currently sit as the East’s No. 4 seed. They are explosive, versatile and confident. And Young is the center of it all. 

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After spending five weeks — 18 games — on the shelf nursing his injured hamstring, James Harden made his return on Wednesday in the Brooklyn Nets‘ win over the San Antonio Spurs. He came off the bench and posted 18 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds in 26 minutes. He shot 6 of 8 from the field and 3 of 4 from 3. If there’s any rust on his game, good luck detecting it. 

“Not to brag or anything, but I’m, like, really good at this game,” Harden said after the win. “I study the game, very unselfish. I take the game and I play it the right way every single night. So, I don’t try to do anything I can’t do or doesn’t benefit my team. That mindset right there keeps me in a really good place.”

This is not arrogance. It’s the truth. Harden is so natural with the ball in his hands, he’s not going to have a long road back skill wise. Like LeBron, it’s about getting back into game condition. And on top of that, playoff game condition, which is an entirely different level of intensity. 

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Bradley Beal did not take kindly to Kent Bazemore’s playful suggestion that Beal’s hamstring strain might be some kind of cover for Beal not wanting to go head-to-head with Stephen Curry down the stretch for the scoring title. Bazemore took the jab after Curry hung 49 points on the Thunder to all but eliminate the ground Beal might’ve gained by scoring 50 earlier in the night before leaving with the hamstring strain, which has kept him out since. 

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“Forty-nine points in 29 minutes, that’s unreal,” Bazemore said of Curry’s performance vs. OKC. “We got guys hurting hamstrings to keep up.”

Beal has had on-court beef with Bazemore in the past. When Bazemore played in Atlanta, he shoved Beal from behind on a breakaway layup when Beal was in the air, and he undercut John Wall under similar circumstances. 

When Beal caught wind of Bazemore’s comments, he, along with his wife, went on a Twitter tirade for the ages. From Sam Quinn’s piece summarizing the ordeal:

The beef began in earnest when, mere hours before tipoff of the Wizards‘ game against the Atlanta Hawks, Kamiah Adams-Beal started tweeting about Bazemore. It began with her sharing Bazemore’s career statistics, which are unimpressive compared to Beal. Things seemingly cooled off when she argued that he didn’t need to put others down to make his point. Then they got more heated when she tweeted “I’m mad we even giving relevancy to someone most people didn’t even know was still in the league.”

This escalated the situation enough for Beal to get involved. When he asked if he should respond to Bazemore, his wife chimed in with this GIF from Mortal Kombat. 

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The Beal stepped in for himself. 

“You don’t know me or s*** about me bruh!!!” Beal’s first reply read. “You don’t know why I go out there and play and it damn sure ain’t for another man’s approval!!! You a straight LAME!!! But it don’t surprise me coming from you, thats what’s yo type do!!”

He then turned things around on Curry, who has spoken openly about his pursuit of the scoring title. “It’s funny you say that because ya mans admittedly checked my numbers before the game, but IM CHASING!!! Shut yo a** up!” 

And, to complete the family tag team, Adams-Beal replied “I wouldn’t hold my breath for a response. But hey, maybe after a long night of 8 points, 1 assist, 1 rebound, 6 turnovers and 6 fouls he will have some time.” While all of this was going on, Bazemore’s Warriors were on the floor playing against the Utah Jazz. He has therefore been unable to respond to it at the time, but commented after the game. 

“I guess you can’t joke anymore,” Bazemore said. “Whatever. I feel like I’m a pretty lighthearted guy. Hey man — my loyalty is to SC30. It kind of got out of hand. I don’t get involved with that crap.”

This is sort of funny, of course, that Bazemore would say he “don’t get involved with that crap” when there was nothing to get involved in before he, you know, creating something. Bazemore is a jokester. He was kidding, I think. But to me, that’s a tad bit over the line to suggest, even in jest, that a competitor like Beal would be essentially faking an injury to avoid the challenge of staring Curry down in the scoring race. 

When has Beal ever backed down from a challenge on a basketball court? The guy is still in Washington, for crying out loud. He could’ve demanded a trade years ago. He’s battling. He’s up for the fight. And Beal’s point about Curry admitting he was tracking Beal’s 50-point game is right on. Beal has never shown any indication that he’s particularly concerned with this title. 

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But if he was overly concerned with winning, just for the sake of argument, how would sitting out games help his cause? Even with Curry posting a 21-point game on Tuesday, his PPG average only dropped one-tenth of a point. If Beal wants to win, he needs to play, not sit out, so he can give himself a chance to have another huge game and up his average. Curry (31.8 PPG) is almost certainly not going to fall back to Beal (31.4 PPG). 

Either way, I’m Team Beal here. Bad joke, Baze. 

On Monday, Russell Westbrook posted 28 points, 21 assists and 13 rebounds against the Hawks for the 182nd triple-double of his career, passing Oscar Robertson for the NBA’s all-time record. 

What more is there to say about this? It’s an astounding statistical achievement. I’ve been hard on Westbrook in the past, and I still don’t believe he impacts games quite as much as the stats suggest, but Robertson’s triple-double record appeared to be about as untouchable as any in sports. Robertson averaging a triple-double for a season was, not long ago, talked about with an almost religious reverence. Robertson did that once. Westbrook, whose gas pedal is perpetually pegged to the floor, has now averaged a triple-double in FOUR separate seasons. 

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Congrats, Russ. Pretty amazing stuff. 

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Elon Musk Says He’ll Pay $11 Billion in Taxes in 2021 But Twitter Wants ‘Proof’

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Elon Musk took to Twitter to clarify once and for all that he will be paying a whopping $11 billion as taxes this year.

If the number of times Elon Musk could count when someone has asked him to pay the full taxes, he would be a very rich..wait, never mind. The Tesla boss is rich beyond any private individual has been in history, reports said.

Musk has increasingly been facing criticism from many politicians and many others who insist he has not been paying taxes as compared to the profits his companies have been making. On Sunday, the SpaceX CEO took to Twitter to share that he will be paying a whopping $11 billion as taxes.

For those wondering, I will pay over $11 billion in taxes this year— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 20, 2021

But some of the questions did not stop. One person tweeted how they needed to see Musk’s tax returns while yet another asked how much percentage was that of his total income.

A few were, however scathing of the government who thought they will add that amount to their pockets rather than using it for some proper development.

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Wow that’s enough to give each person in the world almost $2 million but instead the government will just stick it in their pockets— greg (@greg16676935420) December 20, 2021

Why not $200 billion? Asking for a Senator— litquidity (@litcapital) December 20, 2021

Earlier this week, Democratic US Senator Elizabeth Warren has tweeted to say that Musk should pay taxes and stop “freeloading off everyone else” after Time magazine named him its “person of the year”.

In response, Musk shot four tweets in which he said that the senator reminded him of a friend’s angry mom who yelled at everybody. He tweeted, ““And if you opened your eyes for 2 seconds, you would realize I will pay more taxes than any American in history this year.” “Don’t spend it all at once … oh wait you did already.”

He added further, “You remind me of when I was a kid and my friend’s angry Mom would just randomly yell at everyone for no reason.”

Musk responded by saying that he “will pay more taxes than any American in history this year”. This Twitter exchange left netizens divided as even though many supported Warren and agreed that Musk should pay more taxes, others felt that he was already doing enough.

Musk’s Tesla is worth about $1 trillion. Over the last few weeks, he has sold nearly $14 billion worth of Tesla shares.

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The Tesla boss has been pushing for his colonize Mars agenda for years now, and has made it very clear in some occasions that he would rather spend the money on putting humanity on the red planet, than pay his taxes. “My plan,” the SpaceX founder tweeted about his fortune, “is to use the money to get humanity to Mars and preserve the light of consciousness.”

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Twitter Admits Policy ‘Errors’ After Far-Right Abuse Its New Rules of Posting Pictures

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Twitter’s new picture permission policy was aimed at combating online abuse, but US activists and researchers said Friday that far-right backers have employed it to protect themselves from scrutiny and to harass opponents.

Even the social network admitted the rollout of the rules, which say anyone can ask Twitter to take down images of themselves posted without their consent, was marred by malicious reports and its teams’ own errors.

It was just the kind of trouble anti-racism advocates worried was coming after the policy was announced this week.

Their concerns were quickly validated, with anti-extremism researcher Kristofer Goldsmith tweeting a screenshot of a far-right call-to-action circulating on Telegram: “Due to the new privacy policy at Twitter, things now unexpectedly work more in our favor.”

“Anyone with a Twitter account should be reporting doxxing posts from the following accounts,” the message said, with a list of dozens of Twitter handles.

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Gwen Snyder, an organizer and researcher in Philadelphia, said her account was blocked this week after a report to Twitter about a series of 2019 photos she said showed a local political candidate at a march organized by extreme-right group Proud Boys.

Rather than go through an appeal with Twitter she opted to delete the images and alert others to what was happening.

“Twitter moving to eliminate (my) work from their platform is incredibly dangerous and is going to enable and embolden fascists,” she told AFP.

In announcing the privacy policy on Tuesday, Twitter noted that “sharing personal media, such as images or videos, can potentially violate a person’s privacy, and may lead to emotional or physical harm.”

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But the rules don’t apply to “public figures or individuals when media and accompanying Tweets are shared in the public interest or add value to public discourse.”

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By Friday, Twitter noted the roll out had been rough: “We became aware of a significant amount of coordinated and malicious reports, and unfortunately, our enforcement teams made several errors.”

“We’ve corrected those errors and are undergoing an internal review to make certain that this policy is used as intended,” the firm added.

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Jack Dorsey Post Twitter Is Chasing His Crypto, Fintech Dream

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At a packed Miami conference in June, Jack Dorsey, mused in front of thousands of attendees about where his real passion lay: “If I weren’t at Square or Twitter, I’d be working on Bitcoin.”

On Monday, Dorsey made good on one part of that, announcing he would leave Twitter for the second time, handing the CEO position to a 10-year veteran at the firm. The 45-year-old entrepreneur, who is often described as an enigma with varied interests from meditation to yoga to fashion design, plans to pursue his passion which include focusing on running Square and doing more philanthropic work, according to a source familiar with his plan.

Well before the surprise news, Dorsey had laid the groundwork for his next chapter, seeding both companies with cryptocurrency-related projects.

Underlying Dorsey’s broader vision is the principle of “decentralisation,” or the idea that technology and finance should not be concentrated among a handful of gatekeepers, as it is now, but should, instead, be steered by the hands of the many, either people or entities.

The concept has played out at Square, which has built a division devoted to working on projects and awarding grants with the aim of growing Bitcoin’s popularity globally. Bitcoin price in India stood at Rs. 44.52 lakh as of 12:50pm IST on December 1.

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Dorsey has been a longtime proponent of Bitcoin, and the appeal is that the cryptocurrency will allow for private and secure transactions with the value of Bitcoin unrelated to any government.

The idea has also underpinned new projects at Twitter, where Dorsey tapped a top lieutenant – and now the company’s new CEO Parag Agrawal – to oversee a team that is attempting to construct a decentralised social media protocol, which will allow different social platforms to connect with one another, similar to the way email providers operate.

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The project called Bluesky will aim to allow users control over the types of content they see online, removing the “burden” on companies like Twitter to enforce a global policy to fight abuse or misleading information, Dorsey said in 2019 when he announced Bluesky.

Bitcoin has also figured prominently at both of his companies. Square became one of the first public companies to own Bitcoin assets on its balance sheet, having invested $220 million (roughly Rs. 1,650 crore) in the cryptocurrency.

In August, Square created a new business unit called TBD to focus on Bitcoin. The company is also planning to build a hardware wallet for Bitcoin, a Bitcoin mining system, as well as a decentralised Bitcoin exchange.

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Twitter allows users to tip their favourite content creators with Bitcoin and has been testing integrations with non-fungible tokens (NFTs), a type of digital asset that allows people to collect unique digital art.

Analysts see the transition as a positive signal for Square, the fintech platform he co-founded in 2009. Square’s core Cash App, after a bull run in its share in 2020, has experienced slower growth in the most recent quarter. It is also trying to digest the $29 billion (roughly Rs. 2,17,240 crore) acquisition of Buy Now Pay Later provider Afterpay, its largest acquisition ever.

But these ambitions will not pay off until years from now, analysts cautioned.

“The blockchain platform they’re trying to develop is great but also fraught with technical challenges and difficult to scale for consumers. I think he’ll focus more on Square and crypto will be part of that,” said Christopher Brendler, an analyst at DA Davidson.

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© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Interested in cryptocurrency? We discuss all things crypto with WazirX CEO Nischal Shetty and WeekendInvesting founder Alok Jain on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

Cryptocurrency is an unregulated digital currency, not a legal tender and subject to market risks. The information provided in the article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial advice, trading advice or any other advice or recommendation of any sort offered or endorsed by NDTV. NDTV shall not be responsible for any loss arising from any investment based on any perceived recommendation, forecast or any other information contained in the article.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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