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.

Victor Oladipo’s practice dunk better than anything he – or maybe anyone – did in dunk contest (video)

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Victor Oladipo has grown into far more than just a dunker.

In fact, in Saturday’s dunk contest, he didn’t look like a dunker at all.

The Pacers star missed all three attempts of his first dunk, and a Black Panther mask was by far the biggest draw of his second. Oladipo was eliminated after the first round.

Maybe Dennis Smith Jr. wasn’t the only eliminated dunker who left something in his bag. This Oladipo dunk – 180 degrees, throwing ball off the backboard with his left hand while in mid-air, dunking with his right hand – while preparing in Los Angeles was awesome.

Larry Nance Jr. had the contest’s best dunk. This would have rivaled it.

Pelicans owner Tom Benson hospitalized with flu symptoms

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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — New Orleans Saints and Pelicans Owner Tom Benson has been hospitalized with flu symptoms.

A statement released Wednesday by the NFL and NBA clubs says their 90-year-old owner is resting comfortably at Ochsner Medical Center, a hospital which also serves as a major sponsor and which owns naming rights to the teams’ training headquarters.

Benson has owned the New Orleans Saints since 1985 and bought the New Orleans Pelicans in 2012.

In recent years, Benson has overhauled his estate plan so that his third wife, Gayle, would be first in line to inherit control of the two major professional franchises.

 

Report: Seattle hosting Kings-Warriors preseason game

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Kevin Durant spent his rookie season in Seattle, before the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder. He has said Seattle fans deserved to see him grow up in the NBA after supporting his promising start.

They’ll get their chance.

Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee:

The Kings and Golden State Warriors have scheduled a preseason game next season in Seattle, according to multiple league sources.

The Oct. 6 meeting between Northern California teams will be the first NBA game in the Key Arena since the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City after the 2007-08 season and became the Thunder.

This game will be loaded with storylines. Not only Durant, but the Kings considered moving to Seattle a few years ago. And of course, the return of NBA basketball to Seattle.

At some point, Seattle will get its own team again. For now, this preseason game creates intrigue there.

Report: Kawhi Leonard cleared medically, seeking second opinion

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he’d be surprised if Kawhi Leonard played again this season, a stark reversal from just a month ago. Back then, even while announcing Leonard was out indefinitely with a quad injury, the San Antonio coach said Leonard wouldn’t miss the rest of the season.

What’s going on?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

After spending 10 days before the All-Star break in New York consulting with a specialist to gather a second opinion on his right quad injury, All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard bears the burden of determining when he’s prepared to play again, sources told ESPN.

Leonard has been medically cleared to return from the right quad tendinopathy injury, but since shutting down a nine-game return to the Spurs that ended Jan. 13, he has elected against returning to the active roster, sources said.

The uncertainty surrounding this season — and Leonard’s future which could include free agency in the summer of 2019 — has inspired a palpable stress around the organization, league sources said.

At first glance, this sounds like Derrick Rose five years ago. Even after he was cleared to play following a torn ACL, the then-Bulls star remained mysterious about when he’d suit up. His confidence in his physical abilities seemed to be a major issue, and he was never the same player since (suffering more leg injuries).

But the Spurs famously favor resting players to preserve long-term health. They seem unlikely to rush back Leonard. They might even sit players who want to play more often. And Leonard isn’t Rose.

Still, it’s clear something is amiss in San Antonio. Maybe not amiss enough to end Leonard’s tenure there, but the longer this lingers, the more time for tension to percolate.