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Full slate of NBA on tap for Martin Luther King day

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The NBA has tried to make Martin Luther King Day it’s sporting day — and it’s a good fit (well as good as any sporting attempt to claim the day). The NBA has become a league about inclusion on a lot of levels: If you can ball well enough it doesn’t matter if you are from Brooklyn or Houston or Germany or the Congo. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is. The NBA is going to welcome you. We as a nation have not yet reached Dr. King’s dream, but we’ve made strides. The NBA can be a symbol of that.

The NBA has a big slate of 11 games Monday, with some interesting matchups to watch.

Chicago vs. Memphis (1 p.m. ET): Memphis has won a couple in a row and may have started to find their stride without the injured Zach Randolph, but that will be tested by the hottest team in the NBA right now in Derrick Rose and the Bulls.

Orlando at New York (1 p.m. ET): Could be a marquee NBA showdown on Broadway, but the role of Carmelo Anthony may be played by Bill Walker. ‘Melo is a game-time decision due to a sprained ankle.

Cleveland at Charlotte (2 p.m. ET): Kyrie Irving vs. Kemba Walker. Two rookie point guards showing they might be able to lead teams for a while in this league.

Houston at Washington (2 p.m. ET): Another point guard showdown — Kyle Lowry vs. John Wall. Wall should get the best of the matchup, the problem is after that all the matchups and team play favor Houston.

Portland at New Orleans (3 p.m. ET): Portland is a fun team to watch play, and I still say LaMarcus Aldridge is the best power forward in the game right now.

New Jersey at Los Angeles Clippers (3:30 p.m. ET): Chris Paul is a game-time decision for the Clippers with a pulled hamstring. Not that it should matter against New Jersey.

Toronto at Atlanta (4 p.m. ET): Atlanta has Josh Smith, Jeff Teague and rookie Ivan Johnson (getting some run with Al Horford out) that make them interesting to watch. Toronto is hurting with Andrea Bargnani out, he had been playing the best ball of his NBA career before getting injured.

Sacramento at Minnesota (8 p.m. ET): What will Ricky Rubio do to the porous Kings defense?

Oklahoma City at Boston (8 p.m. ET): Kendrick Perkins makes his return to Boston. And he’s on the better team right now.

Dallas at Los Angeles Lakers (10:30 ET): Two of the teams in that second tier in the west behind OKC trying to get back to their old level of play despite a lot of new pieces to fit in (or new system in the Lakers case). If the Lakers win this one it does not make up for the sweep in the playoffs last year… but it would still feel pretty good to Lakers fans.

Watch Spurs’ Dejounte Murray throw off-the-backboard alley-oop to himself in pickup game

Washington guard Dejounte Murray, center, dribbles the ball past Mount St. Mary's center Taylor Danaher (50) as Washington forward Marquese Chriss, right, watches duirng the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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Just a suggestion for rookie Dejounte Murray: Don’t do this in front of Gregg Popovich. You may not like his reaction.

That said, the Spurs needed to get more athletic this off-season — landing Pau Gasol certainly didn’t help that cause — so enter first-round pick Murray, who pulled this off in a recent pickup game.

Murray is going to be brought along slowly in a backcourt where Tony Parker and Patty Mills will be splitting time at the point. Murray is more of a combo guard and is going to have to shoot a lot better than he did in college (28.8 percent from three) to get some run. But this is a situation where the Spurs can groom him, bring him along slowly, and see if they have another draft steal.

He’s certainly got the athleticism.

Corey Brewer: “James (Harden) is going to play defense this year”

HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 18:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets walks across the court during their game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Toyota Center on March 18, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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James Harden‘s defense is not as bad as its reputation.

Well, at least it wasn’t two seasons ago — his near MVP season he was in good enough shape that he could put in a respectable effort on that end and still handle his massive offensive load. There were still some mental lapses, but his focus was better and his improvement lifted the team defense. Last season, he regressed back to youtube “highlight” defense Harden — his conditioning was not where it needed to be, he didn’t expend as much effort on that end, and it showed.

Harden got a massive contract extension this summer, and Dwight Howard is Atlanta’s problem — now Harden has to lead the Rockets. By example. Corey Brewer told ESPN you’re going to see that on defense.

“I think this year he’s going to play better defense, We’re going to let the past be in the past. It’s the future of the Rockets, man. James is going to play defense this year.”

We’re all Missourians on this one: Show me.

Remember that the Rockets will be out and running — Mike D’Antoni is the coach now, and Daryl Morey is going to get the up tempo ball he wants (which Kevin McHale had them doing, but Harden didn’t like him so…). D’Antoni’s teams in Phoenix played better defense than their reputation — points per possession they were middle of the pack — but that has never been his focus.

Will Harden be able to run like he needs to on offense and still defend at a reasonable level?

If he can, it’s a big step toward the Rockets being a dangerous team in the West because if he does it others will follow. Otherwise, every Rockets game will be a shootout, which is entertaining but not going to get a team deep into the playoffs.

 

Watch Drake hit a half court shot while doing a situp

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 26:  Singer Drake celebrates after Terrance Ross #31 of the Toronto Raptors sinks a 3-pointer in the second half of Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Indiana Pacers during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre on April 26, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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I can see the questions on Twitter/in the comments already so let me save you some time.

Because it’s summer.

Because it’s Drake (he’s a celebrity and an NBA hanger-on with some quasi-official position with the Raptors).

Because Stephen Curry did it, too.

Because what other hoops are you watching on a late August afternoon?

And besides, you clicked on it. You know you want to see it.

So here it is, Drake, hitting a halfcourt shot while doing a sit up. Enjoy.

FOR THE KIA!!!!! @highlighthub @bleacherreport

A video posted by champagnepapi (@champagnepapi) on

Mario Chalmers says he’s cleared to play

Memphis Grizzlies guard Mario Chalmers moves the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015, in Washington. Chalmers was ejected in the first half. The Wizards won 100-91. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
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Mario Chalmers was thriving with the Grizzlies after a midseason trade from the Heat when a torn Achilles ended his season.

Not the way Chalmers wanted to enter free agency.

Still unsigned, he says he’s progressing.

Chalmers:

Can he go 100%, though? If not, when?

A few teams could use another point guard. If Chalmers shows his health, he belongs in someone’s rotation. But that might require taking a low-paying deal and working his way up from the third point guard spot – or even just onto the regular-season roster.