This is part 1 about the NBA on Christmas. For part 2, click here.
Happy holidays to everyone whether you’re reading this or not. I went back and forth between posting today or taking it easy to enjoy the games on TNT, but writing about the NBA on Christmas seemed like an interesting topic to explore.
I don’t think I was ever less excited to watch basketball on Christmas than this year. The first two games were stinkers (Carmelo Anthony looked about as excited as I was) and the Heat weren’t possibly going to lose even if they played like when they lost to the Rajon Rondo-less Celtics last year. It took seven hours before an evenly-matched game would tip off when, coincidentally, it was between two teams in the Western Conference. The drawback was that we still had to watch them play in sleeved jerseys that turned James Harden into an oversized, bearded five-year-old.
Some people in the Twittersphere have suggested a flex schedule, where the league could adjust for lopsided or injury-plagued matchups on one of the most anticipated nights of the NBA’s season, but why not just start the season on Christmas?
Put aside the adjustments that would have to be made for the rest of the season and just focus on just December 25. This is what the games are like right now:
- We know the identity of most teams.
Remember when the Miami started their 2011-12 season by dismantling Dallas on their own court? Had we waited two months for that game, it would’ve been more difficult to watch than it already was. We’d already have known just how badly Lamar Odom was going to mail in the season, though who knows if Miami’s blood would still be boiling by then.
We also wouldn’t know we were stuck with duds like:
- The Wizards against the Cavs in 2009, when Washington was 4-22.
- 2010’s matchups of Miami and New York when the Knicks struggled with Mike D’Antoni, and Clippers-Suns when Blake Griffin missed his entire first season.
There’s still plenty of room for teams to rise and fall, but we know what most are like by now when we’re two months into the season. Fair-weather fans know better than to watch a game like Chicago against Brooklyn yesterday. The same goes for any Knicks-related game, especially without Melo.
- Injuries pile up.
See Brooklyn and Chicago for the extreme cases of squads limping into Christmas, but also the Lakers and Knicks. We missed out on Melo-Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant-LeBron James duels last night and the Clippers are up and down without J.J. Redick. It’s just disappointing when teams aren’t 100 percent, especially on a day when the NBA is on television all day long.
- We miss out on the surprise teams and players each year.
The best reason for a flex schedule, even though it’s easier said than done. Not playing last night were LaMarcus Aldridge and the Blazers, the Suns with Eric Bledsoe, the Pacers with Paul George, Anthony Davis’ breakout season with the mediocre Pelicans, and the Rudy Gay-less Toronto Raptors. Matching the last two teams up couldn’t have been worse than the Bulls and Nets yesterday.
We would also see some first-game sloppiness, but I’m pretty sure fans would put up with it. Imagine what yesterday’s matchups would’ve been like if they were the first games of the season:
Chicago and Brooklyn: Think of how many more eyeballs that would be drawn towards this game if it were Derrick Rose’s return and the first time we see Jason Kidd intentionally spill a drink on himself. It’s a bit cruel to have Rose play his first game on the road like what he did at Miami, but the same thing would happen to another point guard in the next game.
Oklahoma City at New York: Russell Westbrook would return from his own injury. If that isn’t enough, J.R. Smith would still be suspended, making this game 10 times more watchable than it was yesterday. Maybe Andrea Bargnani playing his first game as a Knick negates some of the positives of Smith’s suspension, but he and Kendrick Perkins could cancel each other out. Two wrongs make a right, right?
Miami at Los Angeles Lakers: We get Kobe coming back for his first game after tearing his Achilles, and he gets thrown into the fire against the Heat (no pun intended). This would probably be an annihilation, as the Heat would wake up at the chance of playing Kobe. Instead, we almost got a repeat from when the Lakers beat the Clippers in the season opener.
Houston at San Antonio: It’s Dwight Howard’s first game as a Rocket against the grizzled vets in San Antonio, who we’d still have no idea how they’d perform after what happened in last year’s Finals. Also, the Omer Asik drama would be just getting started, for better or for worse.
Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State: It still carries good weight with all that transpired between the teams last year, though they never met in the playoffs. There are some new, big names on each team as the Warriors and Clips made moves to get Andre Iguodala and J.J. Redick, respectively.
Those all seem like legitimate Christmas presents versus how they played out yesterday.
This post has been edited, with the bottom-half cut and made into Part 2.