Presents, and Perhaps Lumps of Coal, Await Fans Under NBA Christmas Tree
Two scintillating undercards will greet NBA fans on Christmas Day. As for the overcards, if that's what they're called, they're not as good.
Before Miami faces the Lakers at the Staples Center in the epic matchup of the five Saturday games, Chicago plays at New York and Boston is at Orlando.
After the Heat-Lakers game, it's Denver at Oklahoma City and Portland at Golden State. The game between the Northwest Division contenders lost a lot of luster when Denver forward Carmelo Anthony was ruled out due to the recent death of his sister. The game between the Trail Blazers and Warriors never had any luster.
The Christmas extravaganza tips off at noon EST on ESPN with Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer matched against Knicks power forward Amar'e Stoudemire. They were top free agents last summer who bolted from the West to the East, highlighting what many believed would be a shift in conference supremacy.
That hasn't happened since the West is still dominant over the East, which still doesn't have much depth. But the Bulls, who are 18-9 with Boozer averaging 19.1 points and 8.4 rebounds, and the Knicks, who are 17-12 with Stoudemire averaging 26.4 and 9.3, have been by no means disappointments.
Then it's Celtics-Magic at 2:30 p.m. ET on ABC. Perhaps it will be a coming-out party for the Magic, who retooled with two big trades last Saturday. Or at least an after-party if one considers how great Orlando looked in Thursday's 123-101 win over San Antonio, which still has the NBA's best record at 25-4.
"The whole world is looking at you right there,'' Magic guard Jameer Nelson said of playing on Christmas. "You are the only thing going. Both teams will be jacked up to play.''
It will be a good test for the new and improved (that sounds like a laundry detergent) Magic against the Celtics, which have the East's best mark at 23-4. In trades with Phoenix and Washington, the Magic (17-12) picked up Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu. Perhaps also the Magic will be more fired up than the Celtics.
"I just wish I was home with my family,'' Boston forward Paul Pierce, who didn't play in a Christmas 2009 game at Orlando that the Celtics were at least excited enough to win 86-77, said about suiting up on the holiday.
After the Heat (22-9) and Lakers (21-8) meet at 5 p.m. ET on ABC, it's on to the night affairs. The Nuggets (16-11) play at the Thunder (20-10) at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN in a game most significant for being Oklahoma City's NBA Christmas debut.
But it's not the first Christmas game for Thunder star Kevin Durant. When the team was in Seattle and Durant was a rookie, he scored 23 points in an 89-79 loss at Portland on Christmas 2007.
Then there's the nightcap at 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. It was hard to come up with anything significant about this game until former Portland coach and Hall of Famer Jack Ramsay, who will serve as ESPN radio analyst for the Heat-Lakers affair, came to the rescue.
Ramsay noted the Trail Blazers always used to play host to the Warriors on Christmas, and always used to beat them. Sure enough, Portland went 5-0 against Golden State between Christmas 1977 and Christmas 1984, with all of the games at home.
"Now they're making up for all those years,'' Ramsay said of Golden State (10-18) finally getting a home game against Portland (15-14) on Christmas while also playing their first home game on the holiday since the team moved to the Bay Area in 1962.
Whether a lot of fans still will be up in the wee hours of the morning to see if the Warriors finally can get revenge against the Trail Blazers on Christmas seems unlikely.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson