Bad luck, bad play leave NBA weak Christmas slate
If the NBA had a Christmas wish, it might be for a different
The one that was drawn up seemed strong enough when it was
released, a potentially dynamite five-game treat from noon through
night, packed with superstar scorers and championship
But like an old Christmas sweater, it doesn’t look nearly as
good now that time has passed.
Back luck and bad play have wrecked a number of teams the league
picked to showcase. Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant and Brook Lopez are
all sitting out, as are Indiana and Portland, who share the NBA’s
But hey, there’s two 9-18 teams and one that’s 10-16.
The Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers got the late afternoon
marquee time slot, but it’s certainly no marquee attraction now
that it won’t feature a LeBron James-Bryant duel.
”That’s probably not the matchup they wanted,” Clippers coach
Doc Rivers said.
The schedule is such a letdown that not until the fourth game
will two winning teams meet, when Houston visits San Antonio.
Rivers’ team travels to Golden State in the nightcap.
Before that, Chicago, Brooklyn and New York all get TV time, all
chosen for the honor long before anyone could have known they would
sometimes look unwatchable.
”Those things are done way ahead of time. You just hope for the
best matchups. Unfortunately, the Derrick Rose injury puts Chicago
in a tough spot. Brooklyn and New York have not played particularly
well,” said Jeff Van Gundy, who will work the Heat-Lakers game on
”But I still think people will watch. It’s Christmas Day, and
people still care deeply about the Bulls and about the Knicks, even
though they haven’t played particularly well of late.”
Christmas is something of a second opening day for the NBA,
often the first time a national audience begins paying attention as
football nears its conclusion. The league decided to capitalize a
few years back by increasing to a five-game schedule that begins at
The Christmas games have averaged more than 33 million U.S.
viewers over the last three years, so Van Gundy is probably right
about the fans still tuning in, even for a matchup that looks as
ugly as those sleeved jerseys the players will be wearing.
”On the NFL, I’ve seen plenty of weak Thanksgiving games, but
we still watch,” Rivers said. ”Now it’s becoming basketball on
Christmas. That’s the good part, that the NBA has found that
After Chicago (10-16) and Brooklyn (9-18) meet in the opener,
Oklahoma City visits New York, matching the NBA’s top two scorers
in Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony – provided Anthony’s left ankle
is OK after he sprained it Monday at Orlando. The Knicks are a
Christmas tradition, making their league-high 49th appearance, and
the league hopes they’ll provide a big audience despite their 9-18
Injuries have hit hard around the NBA and the Christmas lineup
is no exception. With Rose and the Lakers’ Steve Nash out, two of
the six players in the league’s holiday jingle ad touting the games
and the special uniforms won’t be playing.
With Bryant also injured and unable to extend his NBA record for
Christmas Day appearances to 16, it’s a chance for the lesser-known
Lakers to enjoy the spotlight during what’s shaping up as a rare
season of irrelevance for one of the league’s storied
”Any time a team plays on the Christmas schedule, teams have an
opportunity to display their talent – whoever is suiting up for
you,” ESPN analyst Hubie Brown said. ”It just seems that teams
play, even though they might not be playing to a high won-loss
record, they will play to their maximum potential because of the
audience that is expected to watch the games on Christmas.”
So maybe Wednesday one of those lowly East teams finally plays
to its reputation – even if only to spare themselves embarrassment
in front of viewership they may not earn again this season.
”Christmas is a special day,” Brooklyn’s Jason Terry said.
”This is a great opportunity to come up in here against a team
like Chicago who is going to make you play hard each and every
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