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Kobe Bryant will suit up for Christmas Day basketball game for the 14th consecutive year when the Lakers host the New York Knicks at noon at STAPLES Center.
The NFL dominates Thanksgiving Day. College football is the big show on New Year’s Day. But on Christmas Day, the NBA serves up a full menu of basketball from morning to night.
For the 14th consecutive year, it includes the Los Angeles Lakers – and for the second year in a row, the Clippers, too.
On Christmas Day, it’s a good bet you’ll spend time in front of a TV screen showing an NBA game on ESPN or ABC. Here’s a guide to what’s on when, plus some hoops chatter to help you sound as smart about the NBA as Phil Jackson.
9:00 a.m. Boston Celtics (13-13) @ Brooklyn Nets (14-12)
These are not your father’s Boston Celtics, but they might be as old as your father. Three of the four players who’ve clocked the most minutes for Boston are 35 or older (Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Kevin Garnett). That's like 65 in basketball years. Today’s game in Brooklyn is the first of eight games in 13 days for the Celtics. Six are on the road. If the Celtics are too old, we’ll know for sure in two weeks.
The Nets are falling back after a quick 11-4 start. Point guard Deron Williams has been grousing about the team’s stagnant offense. The last time Williams was unhappy was two years ago when he was with the Utah Jazz. The result: His coach, Jerry Sloan, quit and Williams got traded to the Nets.
Something to say that'll make you sound like an NBA genius: Brooklyn’s Barclays Arena is the eighth home court in the Nets’ 46-year history. As the ABA's New Jersey Americans in 1968, the team forfeited a game against the Kentucky Colonels because the court at the Long Island Arena was too beat up. That game would have been at the Teaneck Armory, where the Americans usually played, but the circus had booked the Armory.
Noon New York Knicks (20-7) @ Los Angeles Lakers (13-14)
The Lakers got an early Christmas present with last Saturday’s return of point guard Steve Nash after a broken leg had kept him out for nearly two months. Nash took the court a game sooner than planned, played 40 minutes, and was the key to the Lakers’ 118-115 overtime win at Golden State. Without Nash two weeks ago, the Lakers lost to the Knicks - 116-107.
The Knicks struggled last season under coach Mike D’Antoni, but perked up after he was fired at mid-season. D’Antoni coaches the Lakers now; his replacement in New York, Mike Woodson, has the Knicks in first place in the Eastern Division.
Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony is the NBA’s second-leading scorer (28.3 PPG). Who’s the league’s top scorer? The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant (29.7 PPG).
Something to say that'll make you sound like an NBA genius: Kobe Bryant has gone work for the Lakers on Christmas Day every year for the past 14 years. The last time he didn't was 1998 when a labor dispute canceled the NBA's Christmas Day schedule.
2:30 p.m. Oklahoma City Thunder (21-5) @ Miami Heat (18-6)
The Christmas Day rematch of last season's NBA championship series might be a preview of this season's NBA championship series. The Thunder have the best record in the Western Conference. The defending champion Heat have the best record in the Eastern Conference.
You know the stars: James, Wade and Bosh for the Heat; Durant and Westbrook for the Thunder.
Miami has won seven of its last eight games. OKC had a 12-game winning steak broken last Thursday in Minnesota.
Something to say that'll make you sound like an NBA genius: LeBron James is Miami's Triple Crown star. He leads in Heat in scoring (25.4 PPG), rebounds (8.5 RPG), and assists (6.8 APG).
5:00 p.m. Houston Rockets (14-12) @ Chicago Bulls (15-11)
The Rockets have the NBA's second-best offense (104.8 PPG). James Harden - traded to the Rockets from the Thunder before the season began - leads the scoring (25.4 PPG). He has help from point guard Jeremy Lin, last year's surprise sensation with the Knicks who signed a three-year, $25 million deal with the Rockets in the offseason.
The Central Division-leading Bulls have the NBA's second-best defense (90.3 PPG). Star forward Luol Deng (17.8 PPG) is the Bulls' top player while the talented backcourt of Derrick Rose and Rip Hamilton recovers from injuries.
Something to say that'll make you sound like an NBA genius: The Chicago Bulls lead the NBA in attendance this season, just like they did last year. And the year before that. And the year before that.
7:30 p.m. Denver Nuggets (15-13) @ Los Angeles Clippers (21-6)
Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the rest of the Pacific Division-leading Clippers bring a team record 13-game winning streak into their Christmas Day battle against Denver at STAPLES Center. As good as the Clippers have been this season, they might get better when guard Chauncey Billups and forward Grant Hill recover from injuries.
Name ANYONE who plays for Denver. You probably can’t. The Nuggets may be the least known good team in the NBA. Credit coach George Karl for that. With few stars, he’s coached Denver to winning records for eight seasons. This year would make nine. Just so you know: Italy’s Danilo Golinari leads the Nuggets in scoring (14.1 PPG).
Something to say that'll make you sound like an NBA genius: If the Clippers win their remaining four games in December, they'll become the 13th NBA team to go unbeaten in a calendar month. That’s an historic switch. Twice before, the Clippers have gone winless in a calendar month (January ’89: 0-14; November ’94: 0-13).