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.

Possible top-10 pick Sekou Doumbouya declares for NBA draft

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Just three 18-year-olds have played in the NBA since the league instituted its one-and-done rule: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Dragan Bender and Devin Booker.

Sekou Doumbouya – who’ll remain 18 until Dec. 23 – could become the fourth.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN:

French forward Sekou Doumbouya has submitted paperwork to the league office to make himself eligible for the 2019 NBA draft, his agent, Bouna Ndiaye of Comsport, told ESPN.

Doumbouya projects as a potential lottery pick.

The 6-foot-9 power forward is extremely physically developed for his age. He’s strong and mobile, and he can elevate.

But he’s still early in his skill development. His shot, handle and feel all need work.

Doumbouya has plenty of tools. His rebounding is already impressive. The rest? It’ll be a project.

Report: Pelicans cut Lakers GM Rob Pelinka from Anthony Davis trade talks

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On Jan. 31, a report emerged the Pelicans hadn’t returned the Lakers’ calls about Anthony Davis. Later that day, another report said the Pelicans and Lakers discussed a Davis trade.

That sparked questions: Was the first report wrong? Did New Orleans and Los Angeles begin talking that day?

Maybe we missed an important distinction.

The first report said then-Pelicans general manager Dell Demps hadn’t returned Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka’s calls. The second report said Demps spoke with Lakers president Magic Johnson.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

Pelinka was mostly cut out of trade talks between L.A. and New Orleans, with the Pelicans preferring to deal directly with Johnson, multiple league sources told ESPN.

Since Johnson stunningly resigned, Pelinka has assumed control in Los Angeles. The Lakers surely still want to trade for Davis.

Will having Pelinka running the front office impair their ability to do so?

We don’t know why the Pelicans rebuffed Pelinka. Different theories bring varying levels of present concern.

Maybe the Pelicans just didn’t want to waste their time with someone who’s not in charge. That’s often an issue when lower-level executives contact other teams. If that’s the case, Pelinka assuming the top job in basketball operations would solve the problem.

Maybe Demps was still bitter with Pelinka over Pelinka’s time as an agent. In 2012, New Orleans restricted free agent Eric Gordon – represented by Pelinka – signed an offer sheet with the Suns. Gordon lobbied hard to leave New Orleans, even saying his heart was in Phoenix. Though New Orleans matched, the saga caused animosity. But the Pelicans fired Demps and hired David Griffin, who’ll now oversee Davis. If this was a personal issue between Pelinka and Demps, that’s now irrelevant.

Maybe Pelinka is just that off-putting. I definitely don’t buy everything people say about him. Being a good agent often means ruffling feathers, and it’s easy for people he countered in negotiations to gossip about him now. But maybe there’s some truth to Pelinka being difficult to work with. If so, that’d come up again – not just with the Pelicans, but every team.

Report: Hornets not trading for Marc Gasol soured Kemba Walker on Hornets

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Kemba Walker has never had an All-Star teammate. For someone as established as Walker, that’s unprecedented.

The Hornets nearly paired Walker with a former All-Star, though. Shortly before the trade deadline, they reportedly nearly dealt for Marc Gasol. But talks stalled, and the Grizzlies instead sent Gasol to the Raptors.

Unsurprisingly, that didn’t go over well with Walker, who was trying to lead a playoff push before entering free agency this summer.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I got the sense in talking to people, that trade deadline really deflated him. When they were pretty close on a Marc Gasol deal, and it fell apart. It didn’t happen. He goes to Toronto. And he looks around and goes, “Come on, what are we trying to do here?”

The reported outline of the Gasol deal: Gasol for Bismack Biyombo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and a protected first-round pick. The hang-up was reportedly on the specifics of the protection.

Which is important!

The Hornets shouldn’t have relinquished too high of a pick for a 34-year-old center just for a likely first-round loss.

Making the playoffs matters. Keeping Walker happy matters. But so does keeping draft picks to build the team going forward. Without knowing the exact line of the protection being haggled, I can’t say whether Charlotte erred by not making the trade. But there’s plenty of room to make passing the right call.

Shortly after the deadline, a rumor emerged Walker would likely leave the Hornets in free agency. This probably explains why.

But a lot has and will happen before Walker makes that call. Charlotte still made a strong late playoff push, though fell short. Walker could make an All-NBA team, which would make him eligible for a super-max contract.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he re-signs. I wouldn’t be surprised if he leaves, either.

What’s clear: He wants to win right now. Though it certainly won’t be the only factor, the Hornets’ stagnancy looks like a real negative when Walker ultimately decides.

Ben Simmons on feud with Jared Dudley: ‘I don’t really have energy for it. It’s done’

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Jared Dudley called Ben Simmons great in transition and average in the halfcourt.

Simmons responded: “It’s coming from Jared Dudley. C’mon.”

In the 76ers’ Game 3 win over the Nets last night, Simmons did what he frequently does – create high-efficiency transition and semi-transition opportunities for himself and teammates. He was also good in the halfcourt, though one game doesn’t establish Simmons in that facet.

Simmons, via Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

“I don’t really have energy for it,” Simmons said. “It’s done. People are going to say what they want to say. Just gotta play.”

As I wrote earlier, this beef will be only as big as Simmons makes it. Dudley’s scouting report was largely accurate. He didn’t really say anything inflammatory, except to people in Philadelphia looking for a slight.

Apparently, after one dismissive comment and one excellent game, that’s no longer Simmons.