Last year, following an ugly lockout, the NBA returned to action on Christmas Day with its first games being the best matchups shown on national television. Fans said “what lockout?” and watched in record numbers.
This Christmas, with one-third of the NBA season gone? Numbers were down slightly over last year but up from a couple of years ago.
The highest rated game was Thunder at Heat, which got a 6.0 nationally and that makes it the fourth-highest rated regular season game ever on ABC. Last year the Bulls and Lakers drew a 6.5 rating in that same spot, which was down over the Lakers and the Heat from the year before.
The big surprise this season was the Knicks and Lakers drawing a 5.9 rating with the early game on ABC — the highest rating ever in that slot for ABC on Christmas Day. It beat the 5.6 that Miami and Dallas had in a finals rematch.
The other games on ESPN were all up from two years ago, but down from last year when there was a “the season is starting buzz.” The early game of the Celtics wiping the floor with the Nets drew a 2.7 rating, which tied 2010. The Rockets running past the Bulls drew a 1.7 ratings, up 21 percent from two years ago. The Clippers dunk fest on the Nuggets drew a 2.0 rating, up 54 percent form two years ago (when the game was Blazers and Warriors).
If you are saying to yourself “The NBA should start every season on Christmas Day” I would say fine. As soon as you convince the owners that they don’t need the revenue from the first quarter of the season — because you already convinced the players to take a 25 percent pay cut to make it work — then you can come talk to me.
The Detroit Pistons’ playoff dreams hinged on them being able to hang around until point guard Reggie Jackson got back from this thumb and knee injuries. They have done just that — the Pistons are 11-10 and would be the eighth seed if the playoffs started today.
And now they get Jackson back. Stan Van Gundy made the announcement Sunday at shootaround, before the team takes on the Orlando Magic.
It will take a few games to get his conditioning back, but this is huge for Detroit. Jackson running the pick-and-roll with Andre Drummond is at the heart of Detroit’s offense – the Pistons were 2.3 points per 100 possessions better with the ball in his hands. Ish Smith played well for the Pistons in his absence — 10.8 points per game, 6.4 assists, and he’s been solid. Move his playmaking to the second unit and suddenly the Pistons become a lot more dangerous.
The scouting report on Jakob Poeltl coming out of Utah said he could run the floor well and he was a good finisher around the rim.
But we didn’t expect this.
During the Raptors win Sunday against the stumbling Hawks, Poeltl filled the lane on the break, got the rock, and nobody was going to stop that finish. Least of all Tim Hardaway Jr., he just ends up in the poster.
Entering free agency last July, Hassan Whiteside said his first choice was to stay in Miami — then Pat Riley gave him 98 million reasons to stick around. While the Heat have been up and down this season, Whiteside has thrived as the franchise player in Miami.
Last July he also met with Dallas, but it turns out that was not his second choice. Here is what Whiteside told Erik Gunderson of the Miami Herald before his team fell to the Blazers on Saturday.
“Portland was my second option,” Whiteside said at the team’s Saturday shootaround in Portland. “I would have came here.”
Interesting. There were reports the Blazers chased Whiteside, but it didn’t seem that serious. Apparently, it was. If The Blazers got Whiteside, would they still have spent $70 million on Evan Turner? Probably not. And suddenly a lot of things look better in Portland.
For Blazers fans, watching their team try to outscore opponents while playing terrible defense this season — in part because of a lack of rim protection behind their undersized guards — it’s easy to imagine how much Whiteside would have changed the picture in the Northwest. But at this point, that’s just fan fiction.
JaVale McGree has become a solid contributor for the Warriors off the bench, giving them a needed shot blocking presence. He’s not getting a ton of run (seven minutes a night), but he’s efficient when he’s out there.
Still, there is his reputation as the guy most likely to end up on Shaqtin’ a Fool. He hasn’t done anything like that for a while… until Saturday night, when after a made free throw he tried to inbound the ball for the Suns for a second.
The Warriors bench was laughing under their shirts and towels.