Coal or Candy: 10 Christmas gifts for good players and bad NBA teams


It’s the holiday season, and you know what that means: Annoying TV jingles that make you a brand adversary rather than a loyalist. Plus, NBA basketball!

Yes, Christmas truly does belong to the NBA in the sports world. We all should be ready for Monday’s slate of games, all of which should provide for an interesting way to ignore your extended family (no promises for that Timberwolves-Lakers game).

This also means that we should be making our list, and checking it twice to see who has been naughty and who has been nice during this young NBA season. Let’s get our trusty quill out and head to the scroll to see what NBA teams and players will be asking for come December 25.

A clean bill of health for Joel Embiid

At this point, it seems as though there’s a faction of fans — mostly outside of Philly, it would stand to reason — that want “The Process” to fail. That means actively rooting against Embiid (which he predicted, naturally). I don’t think the 76ers need Embiid long-term to succeed. They have a great core that can grow, and continued diligent draft decisions, trades, and free agent signings should get them where they need to go. But why wouldn’t you want to see Embiid play?

A resolution on officiating from the NBA

Originally, when this article was planned I had this written down on my list as “some explanation for what’s going on” but we sort of got that from the NBPA an NBRA. We don’t know what’s going to come of the two associations sitting down to talk, or even if they will announce anything if they come to some sort of resolution. But we should start hoping to see some kind of change soon. Guys can’t be getting tossed on one technical foul.

Playing time for Jahlil Okafor

As of writing, Okafor has played in just one game for the Brooklyn Nets after being traded to the team from the 76ers in early December. The talk — outside of Okafor and his former coaching staff going back-and-forth — has been that Okafor needs to get into game shape and learn the new system in Brooklyn. Still, this feels weird and has to be more than we’re being let on. One of the best ways to get into game shape would be to play in games, and it’s not like Brooklyn could do any worse. They’re on a four-game losing streak and aren’t a playoff team.

Confidence in beating the Warriors for the Houston Rockets

Houston GM Daryl Morey says the team is obsessed with beating Golden State, and as we’ve seen in the past, the best way to gain confidence is to beat them over and over again. The Rockets already beat the Warriors in the first game of the year, and they play twice more in 2018 before the playoffs. Still, will that be enough to bolster them before what everyone is assuming will be a Western Conference showdown?

Shooting confidence for Lonzo Ball

The guy did block James Harden the other day, but he’s still shooting just 34 percent from the field. No, his shooting form isn’t going to get corrected over the course of the season. Most coaches wouldn’t try to do that, and it’s doubtful his father even lets anyone suggest as much next summer. But his long release is secondary to his clear reluctance to even let it fly. That’s a good thing for most rookies, but Ball is crucial to his team’s success and he’s not exactly Boston-era Rajon Rondo on defense. Let it fly, young buck.

A gameplan for the Oklahoma City Thunder

Watching the Thunder is weird enough, but looking at their stats really confirms the tale of the video. Oklahoma City is 26th in the NBA in terms of pace, which feels right considering the ball-stopping nature of their offensive weapons. It’s also a huge step back from last season, when the team finished 9th thanks to Russell Westbrook running at full speed at all times. They’re also No. 2 in defensive rating, another surprise. But it hasn’t yielded them returns. They’ve recently jumped into a playoff spot, and that could be them settling. But any confidence of them in the playoffs would be misplaced at this moment.

Some kind of promise to pursue a team for Seattle fans

There’s a memorandum of understanding for remodeling Key Arena, which is good for the city overall. It will probably net them an NHL team, and a better arena was what former SuperSonics owner Howard Schultz was going for back before the team moved to Oklahoma City. It’s unlikely any NBA team ever calls Key Arena home, but if the Oak View Group at least makes an effort to feign a pursuit of a team it would be a step in the right direction. Seattle is too great a basketball city to have no NBA squad.

More Michael Beasley for Knicks fans

Beasley went HAM on Thursday night, scoring 32 points in a winning effort over the Boston Celtics. He’s been a double-digit scorer for the entirety of December, save for two games. Beasley has also been a key bench player for New York, but that’s not why he’s interesting. B-Easy is still just 28 years old, and getting more fun game out of the former No. 2 overall pick is exactly what basketball twitter needs in the middle of these long, winter weeks.

A playoff spot for the Pacers

Seriously, how great is this Pacers story? They get their legs swept out from under them by Paul George, and when the time came to trade him, Indiana somehow makes out like a bandit. Victor Oladipo looks much different, which is a relief for those of us who were down on the former No. 2 overall pick from 2013. The team currently sits at No. 4 in the Eastern Conference, and all of us are hoping they make it to the finish line both for the longevity of the Pacers and to make things interesting come spring.

A Lakers jersey for LeBron James

Like, maybe just as a white elephant gift (but also maybe for real).