So the NBA is back in business on Sunday – not just any Sunday, but Christmas, baby! – with a Santa- busting slate of five TV games. There will be NBA games coming down your chimney, NBA games under your tree, even NBA games spinning on the coffee table like dreidel tops.
Nothing says Christmas Day like LeBron James’ crab dribble.
Nothing says Christmas Day like Craig Sager in purple-and-plaid.
Nothing says Christmas Day like Stan Van Gundy pleading for a call in your living room.
Credit the NBA for cutting through all the spiritual pretense of the holiday and declaring Christmas what it really is: The manifestation of our most conspicuous consumption, the culmination of America’s busiest annual shopping spree and, now, a day to reflect on the Dallas Mavericks’ remarkable championship run.
Hey, I’m just glad the NBA is back. Sure, it was hip and fashionable during the long lockout to say, “I don’t even miss the NBA.” Not me, fella. Couch Slouch is anything but hip and fashionable; besides, how does one fill all those Kobe-less nights? You think my DVR was working overtime recording Panthers-Predators NHL games?
Anyway, in the midst of Tebow madness and Iowa caucusing, some of you might have missed exciting NBA developments leading into the truncated season. Like…
• Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is running for president of Russia. Coincidentally, ESPN voice Craig James announced he will run for U.S. Senate in Texas. Weather and visa considerations aside, I’d move to Moscow to vote for Prokhorov before I’d move to Midland to vote for James.
• This is probably Greg Oden’s last season in Portland. Where does the time fly? This is his fourth year as a Trail Blazer, and he’s played a total of 82 games, which, of course, is the equivalent of one (non-lockout) season. P.S. He’s hurt again.
(Column Intermission: And now our annual book excerpt from serial author John Feinstein – America’s leading graffiti-as-sports- literature savant – from his latest 533-page bouquet to himself, “One on One”: “Perhaps because I spent so many years working for a newspaper, I do most of my writing in the afternoon.” Man, that’s A LOT of blame to lay at the feet of afternoons.)
• Lamar Odom is a Maverick. As a Los Angeles resident, I’ve got to tell you – this hurts the Lakers. But there is a hidden upside for L.A.: One Kardashian down, two to go.
• Good news for Chris Paul: He’s going to L.A. Bad news for Chris Paul: He’s a Clipper! However, for the first time, that’s apparently cool. Still, there’s a stumbling block, Chris – your coach is Vinny Del Negro; good luck.
• NBA teams will play a 66-game schedule in 123 days. Heck, there may even be baseball-style NBA doubleheaders. Wasn’t it LeBron who once said, “Let’s play two!” Or did he say, “Let’s play three – quarters.” Hah!
And it all starts Christmas morning, on the big screen under the mistletoe.
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, a grumpy opponent of NBA Christmas games – and his team has another this year – last season sarcastically commented, “We need to start them at midnight on Christmas Eve and play them all through the day so there’s not a minute of Christmas Day where there’s not an NBA game on TV.”
Who knew Van Gundy was a Christmas prophet?
The NBA will start Christmas Day at noon EST and not finish until past midnight EST: Celtics-Knicks (TNT), Heat-Mavericks (ABC), Bulls-Lakers (ABC), Magic-Thunder (ESPN) and, of course, the traditional stocking-stuffer finale, Clippers-Warriors (ESPN).
In a nice fraternal twist, Van Gundy’s slightly less grumpy sibling, Jeff Van Gundy, will broadcast two games in two cities with partner Mike Breen. One brother bemoans NBA Christmas games, the other jets to two of them.
And to think – if the NBA wasn’t so commercially crass, the Van Gundy boys could celebrate a traditional holiday at home together, watching the Bears and Packers play on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.”
Ask The Slouch
Q. Why is it that nations such as Yemen, Iran and Somalia can play online poker but we here in the land of the so-called free can’t go all in on ace-deuce off-suit? (John McKeown; Sussex, Wis.)
A. Online poker should be legal, but consider this: Maybe there’s a greater freedom in not being tethered to your laptop around the clock.
Q. First Tiger and Elin, now Kobe and Vanessa. Who’s next? (Kim Jennings; Oakland, Calif.)
A. My Hollywood people tell me Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman may be on the outs.
Q. Are you the last man using aol.com? (Greg McDonald; Parma, Ohio)
A. There are seven of us – at least we don’t pay $23.95 a month anymore.
Q. If Ron Paul wins in Iowa, will David Stern reject the results unless Paul promises to include Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and both Gasol brothers in his cabinet? (David Haley; Kansas City, Mo.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.