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.