Three things to know: NBA players discuss legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.


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.”

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.”

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 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

“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.

Paul George has to be helped off court after fourth quarter leg injury


Hopefully this is not serious, not something that changes the playoff picture in the West.

The Clippers’ Paul George went down with 4:38 left in the game Tuesday night after a collision with Lu Dort going for a rebound.

George had to be helped back to the locker room and struggled to put any weight on his leg.

After the game, Tyronn Lue said George was still being evaluated and had no update on his status. George was seen exiting the arena on the back of a cart with his right leg extended, according to the AP.

George had 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists before exiting the game. On the season he is playing at an All-NBA level averaging 23.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists a game, and the Clippers are 6.8 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court.

The Thunder went on to win 101-100 in a game filled with drama, including a technical foul for Kawhi Leonard, an ejection of Terrence Mann, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scoring 31 points, and Lou Dort locking up Leonard in the final seconds.


Grizzlies Ja Morant: ‘My job now is… to be more responsible’


While his coach said he anticipates Ja Morant will return to the court Wednesday for the Grizzlies, Morant downplayed expectations and said things are “still in the air.”

Whether the official return is Wednesday or a few days later, Morant is back practicing with teammates and spoke to the media for the first time since his suspension. He once again was apologetic.

“I’m completely sorry for that,” Morant said, via the Associated Press. “So, you know, my job now is, like I said, to be more responsible, more smarter, and don’t cause any of that no more.”

Morant was suspended eight games by the NBA after flashing a gun in a club and broadcasting it on social media, something NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called “irresponsible” and “reckless.” Morant used that time to go into counseling at a facility in Florida but added he “never had an alcohol problem.”.

“I went there to counseling to learn how to manage stress,” Morant said. “Cope with stress in a positive way, instead of ways I’ve tried to deal with it before that caused me to make mistakes.”

Morant said that his treatment is an “ongoing process,” adding that he was getting off social media and letting his actions speak for him.

Morant and his associates had incidents before that caught the attention of people around the league — including a run-in with Indiana Pacers security — however, this incident in a Colorado club was the first one that hit him in the wallet. The suspension cost him $668,659 in game pay, plus one of his major sponsors — Powerade — pulled an ad campaign featuring him that would have run heavily during March Madness.

The biggest hit is Morant possibly missing out on an All-NBA guard spot. Morant could make $39 million more over the five-year extension that kicks in next season if he makes one of the three All-NBA teams. However, the guard spot is especially crowded with deserving players this season and this incident and the missed games do not help his cause.

Hart will be free agent this summer seeking new contract, ‘would love for it to be New York’


Josh Hart‘s play since coming to the Knicks has made him a lot of money.

Already a darling of many front offices, Hart has been a seamless fit in New York, averaging 11.1 points and seven rebounds off the bench for Tom Thibodeau, playing quality defense, and being the kind of plug-and-play wing every team can use. He’s quickly become a fan favorite in New York, but the Knicks will have to pay up to keep him. Hart has a player option for $12.9 million next season that he is widely expected to decline — there’s a lot more money and years available to him on the open market.

Hart told Marc Spears of ESPN’s Andscape he wants to find a home, and he hopes that it is in New York.

“I want bigger things for my wife and myself,” Hart said. “Just find a home somewhere where we are valued and really like living there. And I think that can be New York. I would love for it to be New York and hopefully the organization feels the same way. Coming up, this contract is hopefully my biggest one, one where I’m making sure my family’s fully taken care of. So, I’ve also got to take that into account, too.”

That is the polite way of saying, “I like it here but you’re not getting a discount.”

While Hart will have made a tidy $33 million in his career when this season ends, his next four-year contract will be worth more than double that amount — this is the deal that sets up generational wealth for Hart’s family. This is a business and he has to make the decision best for him, as much as he may love the Knicks.

Expect the Knicks to pay up, especially as long as Thibodeau is around. This is a deal that should come together.

But first, Hart and the Knicks are headed to the playoffs, and Madison Square Garden will be rocking. It’s going to be the kind of experience that makes a guy want to stay with a team.

Hall of Famer, Knicks legend Willis Reed dies at 80


Willis Reed, the legendary Knicks’ center whose dramatic entrance onto the Madison Square Garden floor minutes before Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals sparked the team to its first title, has died at the age of 80.

The National Basketball Retired Players Association announced Reed’s passing. While no cause of death was announced, it was known Reed had been in poor health for some time.

“Willis Reed was the ultimate team player and consummate leader,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “My earliest and fondest memories of NBA basketball are of watching Willis, who embodied the winning spirit that defined the New York Knicks’ championship teams in the early 1970s. He played the game with remarkable passion and determination, and his inspiring comeback in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals remains one of the most iconic moments in all of sports.

“As a league MVP, two-time NBA Finals MVP and member of the NBA’s 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams, Willis was a decorated player who took great pride in his consistency. Following his playing career, Willis mentored the next generation as a coach, team executive and proud HBCU alumnus. We send our deepest condolences to Willis’ wife, Gale, his family, and many friends and fans.”

Reed had an amazing career — highlighted by the two NBA titles and two NBA Finals MVP awards, plus being a seven-time All-Star — but he is best remembered for a legendary 1969-70 season. That year he became the first player to sweep the regular season, All-Star Game and NBA Finals MVP awards.

However, it was him walking out on the court for Game 7 of the Finals in 1970 — after he suffered a thigh injury in Game 5 and had to miss Game 6 of the series, and the Knicks had no answer for the Lakers’ Wilt Chamberlain without him — that became the moment of legend. Reed scored four early points that game, and while he was limited the rest of the way he sparked the team to its first title (Walt Frazier’s 36 points and 19 assists had something to do with the win, too).

Reed was born in 1942 in Hico, Louisiana, and stayed in the state through college, leading Grambling State to the 1961 NAIA title. Considered an undersized center at 6’9 “, teams quickly learned he played much bigger than that as he went on to win the 1965 Rookie of the Year award.

Reed averaged 18.7 points and 12.9 rebounds a season over the course of his career, and he had his No.19 retired by the Knicks. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1982.