NBA PM: NBA Christmas Revelations
The NBA has become as much a part of Christmas as reindeer and stockings in the modern era, and this year’s schedule did not disappoint. While the normal NBA schedule has at least two or three games that are relatively meaningless in the grand scheme of things, the five games we were treated to on Christmas this year all had a story to tell.
Boston Celtics 93 at Brooklyn Nets 76: There are two significant takeaways from the Celtics’ blowout win over the Nets on Tuesday night. The first is that the Brooklyn Nets, while impressive on paper, have yet to show much of anything on the court. Yes, they have one of the highest payrolls on the NBA and turned heads by re-signing Deron Williams as well as by trading for Joe Johnson, but at the end of the day they are struggling to stay above .500. It takes more than spending a bunch of money to contend, and the Nets are a perfect demonstration of that fact. Meanwhile, the Celtics still expect to contend by the time the playoffs come, and they treated their Christmas spotlight game as an opportunity to bury one of their rivals. Most preseason prognosticators had the Nets well ahead of the Celtics in the ranks of contenders, and for one day the Celtics were determined to prove those prognosticators wrong. It was especially encouraging to see Jeff Green score 15 points in 18 minutes off the bench. That’s something Celtics head coach Doc Rivers has been anxiously awaiting.
New York Knicks 94 @ Los Angeles Lakers 100: In today’s NBA a winning streak may or may not be impressive, as so many teams are missing key players due to injury or are in total rebuild mode. For instance, the Lakers reeled off the first three wins of their current five-game streak by handling the Washington Wizards minus John Wall, the Philadelphia 76ers minus Andrew Bynum and Jrue Holiday, and the rebuilding Charlotte Bobcats. The last two games of the streak, however, including last night’s win over the New York Knicks, were much more significant. With Steve Nash back in the lineup, the Lakers took out the impressive Golden State Warriors and then polished off the Knicks, who have been one of the East’s best teams this season. Expect the trade buzz to calm down and for Mike D’Antoni’s chair to cool significantly if Nash’s return sparks a prolonged winning streak. As for the Knicks, this loss was more about their ongoing issues away from home, where six of their eight losses have occurred. They are slowly getting healthy, with Kurt Thomas and Marcus Camby back, but winning on the road is going to be important if they hope to maintain their slim lead on the Atlanta Hawks.
Oklahoma City Thunder 97 @ Miami HEAT 103: For all of the talk about Miami not playing as hard this season, or perhaps lacking some of the hunger that helped them win the championship last season, they looked as determined and dangerous as ever when hosting the team that they faced in last season’s NBA Finals. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Martin did their share of damage, and the Thunder got to the line 38 times to Miami’s 19, but the HEAT shot 48 percent from the field and LeBron James nearly recorded a triple-double as his team held off the West’s best. The loss dropped OKC into second place, a half-game behind the Los Angeles Clippers, who won their 14th straight game last night.
Houston Rockets 120 @ Chicago Bulls 97: The Houston Rockets may be rebuilding again, but they are as competitive as ever despite a remarkably high rate of roster turnover since last season. Like the aforementioned Lakers, the Rockets have benefited from some injuries during their streak of six wins in their last seven games, but they are still taking it to opponents who aren’t prepared for their offensive onslaught. James Harden has been solid all season, but Jeremy Lin is starting to play consistently well, Omer Asik actually looks like a starting center most nights and Houston’s endless supply of secondary players with talent produces impact performances more nights than not. Right now Houston looks like a playoff team, though of course the returns of players like Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, and Ricky Rubio promises to test their resolve over the course of the season. The Bulls, of course, are treading water until Derrick Rose returns . . .and just barely, at that.
Denver Nuggets 100 @ Los Angeles Clippers 112: If the Clippers haven’t made a believer out of you yet, you’d better start watching some of their games. Following their Christmas defeat of the Nuggets they have a 14-game winning streak and sit atop the Western Conference. This team has the right balance of veteran leadership, youthful energy, strong floor leaders and great depth, and it’s showing on the basketball court. Meanwhile, the Denver Nuggets continue to struggle with consistency, and while several of their players appear to have star potential, none have been able to sustain a high caliber of play this season. Many believed the Nuggets would be a top four team in the West this season, but so far they look like a stretch to even make the playoffs.
X-Factor For The Philadelphia 76ers
Once upon a time Jason Richardson was one of the NBA’s high flying stars. He is one of only two players in NBA history to win back-to-back slam dunk championships, having accomplished the feat in 2002 and 2003, and is also one of the more consistent three-point threats in the league. He may not be as much of a high flyer any more, but his ability to drain threes has made him a player of interest to a number of teams, and as a result he has been a part of the Charlotte Bobcats, Phoenix Suns, Orlando Magic and now Philadelphia 76ers in recent years.
“It’s a great city so far,” Richardson tells HOOPSWORLD about Philadelphia. “Great place to be at. Great sports city. They really love their sports out there, and I’m just happy to be a part of the 76ers organization.”
The sports fans in Philly are among the most rabid in the country, and Richardson admits the Sixers’ fans inspire the team to play harder.
“Yeah, they’re legendary,” says Richardson. “They’re great. That’s the thing about it: as long as you go out there and play hard, they’ll pretty much cheer you on a lot and stuff like that. You’re going to have some tough crowds, but I like those types of crowds. They stay in the game, they’re passionate about us winning, and it makes you just want to go out there and play hard.”
As a veteran, Richardson understands that he has had to adjust his game to meet his changing physical capabilities. That hasn’t been an overwhelming problem for the twelve-year NBA veteran.
“No, no it’s not,” says Richardson. “That’s why you work on your game for, other pieces of your game. You’re not going to be athletic forever, and there comes a time where you have to other parts to your game, that’s why I developed my jump shot, tried to get to the basket a little bit more, doing things like that.”
Sixers head coach Doug Collins has no illusions about where his shooting guard is at this stage of the game. As much as he would like to see his team getting more free throw attempts, he knows Richardson is not going to be a big part of that.
“J-Rich, at this stage in his career, is not going to be a guy shooting a lot of free throws because he’s not a guy that is going to put the ball on the floor and make plays for himself,” says Collins. “He’s going to be a one-dribble guy, shoot threes, something like that.”
Richardson has also become one of the NBA’s veteran voices, and he feels his Sixers teammates understand what he has to offer and take his words to heart.
“Yeah, I think so,” says Richardson. “I try to help them out as much as I can, with some of the experiences that I have been through as far as scoring, not scoring, not touching the ball, everything like that, just trying to keep your head straight. I think I’m doing a good job of helping these guys out and hopefully they can have long careers.”
On his last stop, of course, Richardson has an opportunity to play with Dwight Howard, and he feels that experience will help him once Andrew Bynum is healthy and playing for the Sixers.
“I definitely do have a feel for that,” says Richardson. “Playing with Dwight, it helped me prepare for where he wants the ball at, where I could get shots off of him because he could demand double-teams. There will be teams that have to have a big part of their defensive coverage for him because he is so valuable down there, he could score anywhere down there, so we’re just waiting on his return and hopefully it’s soon.”
Richardson has been part of some pretty exciting teams, from the eighth-seeded Golden State Warriors who upset the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks to the first (and only) Charlotte Bobcats team to ever make the playoffs. He feels this Sixers team, though, has the making of something special.
“It’s one of the better teams that I have played on,” says Richardson. “As far as the talent level, I think it’s probably one of the better teams, too. Got a lot of young talent where these guys are just hitting their primes or not even there yet, so it’s going to be amazing the next few years and see these guys blossom. Evan [Turner], Jrue [Holiday], Thad [Young], once Andrew gets healthy, to see what he could do when he’s the number one option just aside from all these young guys.”
Make no mistake, however, Richardson has an important role to play in Philly. If he plays it well, he could be the key to a deep playoff run for the Sixers.
Christmas Schedule Delivers for ABC, ESPN
The NBA’s five-game Christmas Day schedule delivered big numbers for the NBA on ABC and ESPN, based on overnight ratings according to Nielsen. The day was highlighted by the New York Knicks-Los Angeles Lakers game generating a 5.9 overnight rating, the best ever for an ABC Christmas Day game in the early window of a doubleheader. Additionally, Christmas Day 2012 was the highest-rated tripleheader ever on ESPN, averaging a 2.1 rating, up 17 percent from a 1.8 in 2010. (Note: Last year, the NBA on Christmas Day tipped off the 2011-12 NBA regular-season).
New York Knicks at Los Angeles Lakers (3 p.m. on ABC)
* This is the highest overnight rating in this window since 2004.
* Generated a 5.9 overnight rating, up 11 percent compared to Boston Celtics-Orlando Magic in 2010 (5.3).
* Delivered a 9.2 rating in New York, which is the third best rating for an NBA regular-season game on ABC ever in the market.
* Delivered an 11.9 rating in Los Angeles, which is the sixth best rating for an NBA regular-season game on ABC in the market.
Oklahoma City Thunder at Miami Heat (5:30 p.m. on ABC)
* Generated a 6.0 overnight rating, making it the fourth highest-rated NBA regular-season game ever on ABC.
* Delivered a 23.2 rating in the Oklahoma City, which is the highest-rated NBA regular-season game on ABC ever in the market.
* Delivered a 15.9 rating in Miami, which is the highest-rated NBA regular-season game on ABC ever in the market.
* Delivered a 10.9 rating in Tulsa, which is the highest-rated NBA regular-season game on ABC ever in the market.
Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Clippers (10:30 p.m. on ESPN)
* Generated a 2.0 overnight rating, up 54 percent compared to Portland Trail Blazers-Golden State Warriors in 2010 (1.3).
* This is the second highest-rated ESPN Christmas Day primetime game ever.
Houston Rockets at Chicago Bulls (8 p.m. on ESPN)
* Generated a 1.7 overnight rating, up 21 percent compared to Denver Nuggets-Oklahoma City Thunder in 2010 (1.4).
Boston Celtics at Brooklyn Nets (12 p.m. ET on ESPN)
* Generated a 2.7 overnight rating, matching the Chicago Bulls-New York Knicks game in 2010 (2.7).
* Delivered a 3.1 rating in Boston, matching the fourth best rating for an NBA regular-season game on ESPN ever in the market.
* Delivered a 3.8 rating in Providence, which is the second best rating for an NBA regular-season game on ESPN ever in the market.
Try Your Hand At Cap Management!
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