When the NBA schedule was released this past August, it seemed like an affront to human decency that the Washington Wizards weren't granted a Christmas Day game. After all, the team got a spot on December 25 last year and is coming off two consecutive seasons in the second round of the NBA playoffs, one of only two such teams (along with the Los Angeles Clippers, of all teams) to make it past the first round each of the last two years. Surely this was a team on the rise and the NBA featuring the team on a national holiday would boost support among fans not already committed to the team (read: fair weather fans). Guess not!
To make matters worse for the Wizards faithful, three teams that didn't even make it to the postseason last year (the Miami Heat, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Lakers) will appear on television tomorrow. What the heck is going on over at the NBA's front office up there in New York. Why the total disrespect for the Wizards? I get that the Thunder and Heat expect to return to postseason play this year with the return of injured players from last year (Chris Bosh for Miami and Kevin Durant for OKC), but the LAKERS?!?!?! This year's incarnation of the Lakers may actually end up doing worse than last year's historically bad Lakers team. The whole thing seemed like an outrage.
Well, as it turns out, two months into the regular season Wizards fans don't really have that much to be upset about. At least not in terms of not playing on Christmas, anyway. The league is not showing disrespect to the Wizards because I'm not sure they've shown they deserve any respect this year. Instead of the ascendancy of the Wiz to the top of the Southeast Division and one of the top spots in the Eastern Conference, pretty much the exact opposite has happened. The Wiz are mired in last place in the division (Miami, Atlanta, Charlotte and Orlando are battling it out for the top spot) and waaaaay down in the Conference behind a series of injuries, lackadaisical play and an abrupt backpedal on their commitment to defense. They aren't even in the playoff picture right now. It's a little bit of a disaster.
Now, lest you think I'm giving the league some credit for being right about the Wizards not being all that good through the season's first 30 games or so, think again. This is really all an accident. Sure the league put the Lakers on TV tomorrow because of Kobe Bryant and not how good they expected the team he's on to be, but I'm sure they expected the Houston Rockets to build on their Western Conference Finals appearance last season and tear up the league to start the 2015-2016 season. I'm also confident they wanted to feature a New Orleans Pelicans team on the rise fresh off their first postseason appearance as a re-named franchise behind future best player in the league Anthony Davis. Wrong on both counts. The Pels are the second worst team in the West (with a worse record even than the underperforming Wizards) and the Rockets launch this season didn't go as planned for the team or already departed head coach Kevin McHale. This stuff's all a crap shoot.
I'm still annoyed about the Wizards not playing today, but I'm laughing at the league about the Rockets, Pelicans and of course the Lakers. I won't be glued to the screen tomorrow. I'll be able to help my mom make Christmas dinner and I won't be forced to look at those ugly ugly Christmas Day unis the league concocted this year. Although I'm still confused as to why there's a Wizards one (below) even though we aren't playing. This league will make anything as long as it stands a chance of selling and making a couple of bucks, I guess.
But I will be thankful that in an ironic twist, the league is giving LeBron James what he asked for two seasons ago: the Miami Heat playing at home on Christmas. Yep, a couple of years ago, LeBron complained about the Heat having to play on the road on December 25. It was LeBron's fourth (and as it turned out final) year in Miami and he'd played three of the four seasons there on the road on Christmas Day and he didn't feel that was right for a team that had made it to the NBA Finals the previous three years.
So last year, the league made sure the Heat stayed home for the holidays. To make it even better, they were even so good as to make sure LeBron was in Miami when they sent his Cavaliers team down there that day. And in the continued spirit of giving, the NBA has let the Heat stay in south Florida this year for what has become an annual holiday game for that team. And LeBron, well he's on the road again. After all, who wants to be in Cleveland on Christmas. Be careful what you wish for. The Miami players are thanking you, I'm sure.
Merry Christmas, Wizards fans. The new year better bring better things for this team. Brooklyn up next on Boxing Day. Back home at VC for the Clips on Monday.