By Charles Hallman
Since its second season in 1947, the NBA has played on Christmas Day. The 1998 lockout was the last time without league games scheduled or played. Over a decade later in 1983, NBA Christmas Day telecasts became traditional as NFL Thanksgiving Day games and New Years’ Day college bowl games.
Five games are scheduled for Sunday, going head-to-head with NFL Sunday games — over 13 hours will be on ESPN and ABC, and Minnesota is making its first-ever appearance on Christmas Day, the first of the night’s doubleheader against Oklahoma City (7 pm CST) followed by Los Angeles Lakers-Los Angeles Clippers (9:30 pm CST) on ESPN.
The slate begins on ESPN with Boston-New York (11 am CST), then ABC will air the day’s marquee match up: Golden State-Cleveland (1:30 pm CST) and Chicago-San Antonio (4 pm CST).
NBA Analysts Hubie Brown and Jalen Rose on separate media calls answered questions, including the MSR’s on December 21 and 22 respectively. We asked both men about the Wolves.
“You have a new coaching staff… You have [Anthony] Wiggins and [Karl-Anthony] Towns but then you have some other positions which night in and night out might not be getting you what you are looking for, if you’re going to make a run in the West to be in the Playoffs,” said Brown of the team.
Minnesota is one of three teams with three 20 or more point-scorers (Towns, Wiggins and Zack LaVine) — Golden State and Cleveland are the others. “I think they are heading in the right direction,” said Rose of the Wolves. “The thing I love about their team is that they did bring in [Coach Tom] Thibodeau, who is going to bring some stability, structure, and organization that you can count on,” he said.
“The players are going to feed off that because he is going to hold them accountable. The thing I love about their squad is Karl-Anthony Towns. He is going to be a perennial all-star.
“I really like Anthony Wiggins,” Rose continued. “While he’s a slasher… I would like to see him be more aggressive and more assertive…have more of a mean streak. The thing that really pops out to me is the development of Zach LaVine. I felt like he was a shining star just waiting to bloom.”
“I love your coaching staff,” added Brown on Minnesota. “Thibodeau has done it. He was outstanding as an assistant coach in every stop, and then when he got his opportunity he did it big time in Chicago. But discipline [and] chemistry comes with accountability, and that takes time with a young team.”
The two analysts briefly talked about the other match ups — Brown will call the Chicago-San Antonio game. Rose will be in the studio on NBA Countdown (10:30 am CST on ESPN; 1 pm CST on ABC).
“One of the Jekyll and Hyde teams right now is Chicago,” noted Brown. “Why do they play in spurts? They have excellent front court talent, but then in the back court, the [Dwyane]Wade-[Rajon)] Rondo combination is good some nights. Wade has been doing a solid job, but what they lack is a good back-up at that position.”
The Bulls struggles when they can’t make threes, but looks better when they drive to the basket, which better suits Rondo’s style, said Rose. He added that Rondo might not be a right fit for them after all. “Is the team going to be a power team or a three-point shooting team?” he asked.
“When they struggle [it’s] when they don’t make their outside shots. Rondo always has been a ball-dominated point guard and not much of a shooter. If they make their outside shots, they will be a problem for the Spurs,” predicted Rose.
“It should be a great game on Christmas,” added Brown on Golden State-Cleveland. “But also a feeling — out game of all of the new pieces, second unit versus second unit, the different match-ups on the first units now, especially with [Cleveland’s J.R.] Smith out [4-6 weeks with a broken right thumb]. We won’t know that until we turn on the television.”
On the Boston-New York match up, “Any time that [Derrick] Rose plays, they have naturally much better offensive flow, and they’ve got a guy that can get you 16, 18 points. Will he remain healthy? Will [Joakim] Noah remain healthy? That’s the question,” said Brown. “[Boston] in a log jam from three down to 12 in the East.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.