Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks look to start strong on Christmas Day after raising their 2011 Championship banner in front of the team they beat in the NBA finals, the Miami Heat.
We're only 10 days away from the start of the NBA regular season. What NBA matchups are on the plate for the holiday?
Welcome Back, NBA.
It’s been a while since I could mention the NBA in a positive light, but it’s almost here. Instead of focusing on the negatives (like David's Stern power trip), I’m going to focus on the positives.
11 am C.T. - Boston Celtics at New York Knicks
Christmas day is the return of basketball, beginning with a battle between two traditional powers. The Celtics core isn’t getting any younger, and while Rajon Rondo has improved every year, it will be tougher from here on out. The shortened season actually helps Boston, but back to back to backs will be difficult for the older players.
Meanwhile, the Knicks with Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, exceeded on offense but was not a defensive juggernaut. New York has gone the 2010-2011 Dallas Mavericks route and acquired Tyson Chandler, a defensive anchor. He can bring physical play on defense and lockdown the lanes to the basket.
1:30 pm C.T. - Miami Heat at Dallas Mavericks
It’s a finals rematch when the Big Three return to Dallas. James took a lot of heat (pun intended), performing well through three quarters and disappearing in the fourth when it mattered most. They lacked a physical contender; he’s a smart, physical defender, and hits clutch shots.
As for the defending champs, the pickup of Lamar Odom gives them a unique multi-position player who can play physical defense, run the point, and be a spot up shooter. He, along with the addition of veteran Vince Carter make the Tyson Chandler loss less noticeable.
4 pm C.T. - Chicago Bulls at LA Lakers
The Bulls return with a lineup that took them all the way to the Eastern Conference finals, and Derek Rose will become even better. They will be looking to get to the Finals and win it this year.
Looking at the Lakers, the loss of Odom hurts them and the second unit will not play as well. With the fracturing of the team, a new head coach in Mike Brown, how well can they play?
7 pm C.T. - Orlando Magic at Oklahoma City Thunder
The Magic enter the season with issues of their own. With Howard trying to leave Orlando, will he play with all he has for this team? Or has he already checked out for next year? Inconsistencies with other players have also made the team have wild swings from being elite to being just average.
The Thunder are one of the youngest teams in the league and continue to improve each year with Kevin Durant and Brian Westbrook. Kendrick Perkins lost a lot of weight and can be used for longer stretches of time. Durant is willing to take the big shot now, and good thing too, because he rarely misses. There is still the issue of whether Westbrook and Durant can coexist, as both want the ball in their hands in the closing seconds.
9:30 C.T. - LA Clippers at Golden State Warriors
With the acquisition of Chris Paul from the Hornets, the Clippers are perhaps the most interesting team to see in the NBA. How will he and Blake Griffin gel? Are they about to become the dominant LA team? The only issue is this team already has three players who can play the point, including Chauncey Billups and Mo Williams. It will be interesting to see how these players are utilized.
As for the Warriors, their pickup of Kwame Brown adds depth at the Center position and gives them a veteran who can help lead the team. They're not exactly a team that consistently makes the playoffs, but they are on the upswing and could surprise some teams.
The lineup for Day One is set, and it can’t get here soon enough. I’d like to think that the lockout didn’t completely turn fans off from watching the NBA, but I would understand lingering feelings of resentment. I know one of our writers looked forward to the absence of games to give hockey a chance to reach a wider audience. Sorry Scott, not this year.
A 66-game season may draw more interest from the average fan, as games mean a lot more now. Every win counts, so teams won’t be sitting on their heels; they can’t afford to. And with back to back to backs, it will become difficult for the older teams to keep a winning streak alive. It will be a question filled season, but it’s coming soon.
Check out of two-part NBA Preview on the sports page. On Friday, we will preview the Eastern Conference. On Saturday, we take a look at the West.