The NBA season is in full swing, and we will be here each weekday with the NBC Sports daily roundup Three Things to Know — everything you might have missed in the Association, every key moment from the night before in one place.
1) NBA players speak on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
The words of Martin Luther King Jr. resonate — and in these times, in this year, they matter more than ever.
“His name and his words and his legacy still live on,” LeBron James said Friday after a Lakers win. “He’s shining his light on us every day. As NBA players, we continue to voice what he was talking about. We continue to move forward. As someone who has a platform like I do, I will continue to live by a lot of his messages.”
"His name and his words and his legacy still lives on. He’s shining his light on us everyday.”
LeBron on the impact of Martin Luther King Jr. pic.twitter.com/k57K5KaRQr
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 16, 2021
The NBA has long embraced MLK Day and once again this year rolls out a strong slate of games. But those are an opportunity for more than entertainment — it’s a chance to talk about the message of Dr. King and how there is still a long way to go for our nation to live up to his vision.
Most players consider it an honor to play on this day, and they will warm up in T-shirts honoring Dr. King and will use their platform to discuss his legacy. But in this past year — with the Black Lives Matter movement — it has been about more than words. It has been about embracing action and pushing for genuine change.
Maybe nobody in the league has pushed for change as much as Jrue Holiday, who donated his salary from the bubble in Orlando to help Black-owned businesses and organizations. He has continued and expanded that after being traded to Milwaukee. He talked about it to ESPN:
“I felt like I kind of needed a reason to go back and play [in the bubble] — and my wife just said it. It kind of just hit her,” Holiday said. “There were other ideas we were thinking about. Obviously, I couldn’t go protest — my wife was pregnant and in L.A., the pandemic [made it] one of the hardest-hitting places… [Donating my salary] wasn’t even like a question. It was kind of like, ‘Man, that’s what I’m supposed to do.’ Right when she told me, it just felt like it was right.”
Our league, the values and teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr, are inextricably linked. On January 18th we will pay respect to the life and legacy of MLK through stories of unity, togetherness and equality. #MLKDay
— NBA (@NBA) January 13, 2021
In recent days, NBA players and coaches have spoken a lot about Dr. King’s legacy and their own Black Lives Matter activism in the past season.
Boston’s Jayson Tatum was one of those.
"I think this year it’s even more important that we honor Dr. King.” Jayson Tatum on remembering Dr. King’s legacy and continuing to push for racial justice #MLKDAY.https://t.co/qB2SEvoFUf pic.twitter.com/lJyCsp6YfB
— NBA (@NBA) January 16, 2021
“I think this year it’s even more important that we honor that day, that we raise awareness and bring attention to that, just with everything that’s happened, really in the last six-to-12 months.”
Atlanta Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce on using his voice and platform in the city where Dr. King was born, via NBA.com:
“I think as a Black man I’m frustrated and saddened by what I see for people of color, saddened for what I see when you think of politics and power and how it impacts our country. But I also realize I have a voice, and our players realize they have a voice. So with their voice they want to work with people who want to do right and create change for people like us, people like me, people in impoverished communities who don’t have health care access and don’t have political access. So I don’t know if anyone is politically savvy in the NBA, but I do know that we are extremely passionate, and I am committed to helping the people of Atlanta and helping people who look like me understand that there’s representation at many levels and how do we help them get there. That’s what’s driving me and I think that’s what’s driving our players as well.”
Jae Crowder, speaking on the NBA’s role in keeping the conversation going, via ESPN.
“[The NBA] started the conversation and that’s a beginning step to change, just addressing what needed to be addressed. We got to continue to stay on that, obviously. It’s easy to go back to feeling like things are normal. A lot of people look up to our sport and our league, so just continue to represent and spread positivity and unity throughout every game.”
2) De’Aaron Fox put up a monster 43 and 13 games, but the Pelicans still beat the Kings
Sacramento has stumbled out of the gate, and their dream of ending a 14-year playoff drought seems farther and farther away in a deep Western Conference. De’Aaron Fox single-handedly tried to change the team’s course on Sunday against the Pelicans, putting up 43 points with 13 assists.
Even that could not overcome a Kings’ defense that is the worst in the NBA right now (and on pace for historically bad) — for the eighth straight game, a team put up more than 122 points on Sacramento. Zion Williamson bullied his way to 31 points and led the Pelicans to a 128-123 win.
3) Kemba Walker returns, but Knicks rout Celtics in a sloppy game
Sunday day games — played in large part because it provides better international broadcast times — are traditionally sloppy affairs. Players are creatures of habit, their routines are set up for night games, and this throws everything off. The Knicks are often involved, and after teams had a night out in New York these games could be just hard to watch.
Turns out, coronavirus restrictions shutting down New York nightlife didn’t change anything for the Celtics.
The Knicks blew out the Celtics 105-75. Julius Randle continued his strong start to the season with 20 points and 12 rebounds, while RJ Barrett had 19 and 11. However, the real story was the Celtics were dreadful, shooting 29.8% as a team for the game. Boston was 7-of-46 from three.
The good news for Boston is that Kemba Walker returned to action after missing the first 11 games rehabbing his knee and working on a strength program. The bad news is he had to leave in the third quarter with a rib injury. Still, it doesn’t seem serious, and the Celtics now have another key part of their offense back.
BONUS THING TO KNOW: If you read one thing, it should be Nekias Duncan’s categorization/breakdown of types of dunks over at Basketball News (then you should follow Duncan on Twitter).
I personally have a soft spot for putback dunks (because the defender often doesn’t see it coming) but it’s hard to argue with this breakdown. Or giving Vince Carter his own category.