NEW YORK (AP) — If the NBA had a Christmas wish, it might be for a different holiday schedule.
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 contenders.
But like an old Christmas sweater, it doesn’t look nearly as good now that time has passed.
Bad 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 best record.
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 ABC.
“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 noon EST.