Christmas day is historically thought-about to be the primary time informal sports activities followers begin tuning into the NBA. Dec. 25 is the marquee day on the NBA’s common season calendar, with nice video games stacked from the early afternoon by means of late at evening. This season’s Christmas day schedule is as follows:
- Atlanta Hawks at New York Knicks, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
- Boston Celtics at Milwaukee Bucks, 2:30 p.m. ET, ABC
- Golden State Warriors at Phoenix Suns, 5 p.m. ET, ABC
- Brooklyn Nets at Los Angeles Lakers, 8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN
- Dallas Mavericks at Utah Jazz, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
What ought to be a celebration of the NBA’s finest groups and largest stars has as a substitute devolved into one other sobering reminder of how dangerous the continued pandemic continues to be. Covid has torn by means of the league, however a number of high stars together with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, and James Harden are anticipated to be again in motion on Christmas. The video games will nonetheless go on, even when there are substitute gamers from the G League taking the courtroom.
In the event you’re making an attempt to get caught up on the 2021-2022 NBA season up to now, now we have you coated.
Covid is rampaging by means of virtually each group
Greater than 100 players have tested positive for Covid in Dec. alone. The Chicago Bulls have already had three video games postponed. The Hawks have nine players in protocol forward of their Christmas matchup with the Knicks. Rosters are being compromised across the league, and the groups which are at present wholesome have an enormous benefit on their competitors. In the meantime, followers are nonetheless in arenas and the NBA doesn’t have any plans to take a break. The latest Covid outbreak is the most important story within the league in the mean time.
The NBA is asking up former gamers in the course of the outbreak
As groups scramble to piece collectively sufficient wholesome gamers to compete, a number of former gamers have been given one other shot within the league.
Joe Johnson is again!
Free agent guard Joe Johnson is signing a 10-day cope with the Boston Celtics, sources inform ESPN. Johnson is returning to the franchise that drafted him 20 years in the past and is anticipated to play tonight vs. Cleveland.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 22, 2021
Brandon Knight is again!
The Dallas Mavericks are planning to signal free agent guard Brandon Knight on a 10-day hardship deal, supply tells ESPN. Knight has been enjoying for Sioux Falls of the G-League, the place he had 25 factors on Tuesday evening. Knight, 30, is a nine-year NBA veteran.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 22, 2021
Lance Stephenson is again, too.
Lance Stephenson bought the decision. He’s becoming a member of the Hawks on a 10-day contract, supply confirms. @TheSteinLine on it first.
It reunites Lance with coach Nate McMillan for a 3rd time. As I typically say, he’s misunderstood by these exterior his group and appreciated by these on it.
— Scott Agness (@ScottAgness) December 21, 2021
And that’s simply on groups enjoying on Christmas. DeMarcus Cousins is again, too, signing with the Bucks after an harm to beginning middle Brook Lopez.
We’re nonetheless ready for Jamal Crawford to get the decision, as a result of buckets are ceaselessly.
The Lakers look nothing like championship contenders
The Lakers entered the season because the favorites within the Western Convention. After two months, LA is preventing simply to remain out of the play-in match. LeBron James has already missed 10+ video games resulting from harm, Anthony Davis shall be sidelined for a month due to a knee sprain, and Russell Westbrook — the group’s massive addition over the offseason — has been bringing his typical combined bag of positives and negatives all season. The Lakers’ largest concern is the remainder of the lineup: LA simply doesn’t have the power to place sufficient good two-way gamers subsequent to their three stars. The Lakers will most likely make the playoffs, however this group simply isn’t even near adequate to win the title proper now.
The Nets haven’t been the powerhouse we had been anticipating, both.
The Brooklyn Nets had been the overwhelming favorites to win the championship going into the season. The Nets had been so proficient that they had been nonetheless thought-about the favorites even after Kyrie Irving took himself out of motion by refusing to get the Covid vaccine (New York has a regulation that requires gamers to be vaccinated to play). Irving nonetheless hasn’t performed a recreation but, however he’s reportedly ramping as much as return for street video games. In fact, he tested positive for Covid as soon as he came back to practice. Get your photographs, individuals.
The Nets are nonetheless in first place within the convention because of the brilliance of Kevin Durant, however they actually don’t appear to be a shoo-in to win and even attain the NBA Finals anymore. James Harden’s play has fallen off a bit as he recovers from a hamstring harm and adjusts to the league’s new foul drawing rules. Sharpshooter Joe Harris is out after having surgical procedure on his ankle. Brooklyn’s protection has been surprisingly superior — going from No. 23 final yr to No. 5 this yr — and will probably be fascinating to see if that holds.
The Nets are positively one of many league’s finest groups. They only don’t appear to be as a lot of a lock to win the championship this season as we thought.
The Warriors are unbelievable, they usually’re getting Klay Thompson again shortly after Christmas.
The Warriors missed the playoffs final yr regardless of Stephen Curry ending top-three MVP voting and Draymond Inexperienced being named First-Staff All-Protection. Golden State revamped its roster with veteran position gamers over the offseason, and all of a sudden they appear to be a juggernaut once more. Golden State is top-five in each offensive and defensive effectivity in the mean time. Curry is the front-runner for MVP. Veterans like Andre Iguodala (who returned to the group this summer season), Otto Porter Jr., and Nemanja Bjelica have added stability to each ends of the ground. Younger gamers like Jordan Poole and Gary Payton II have made a huge impact, too.
The very best information for the Warriors? Klay Thompson is coming back soon after missing the last two seasons with a torn ACL and torn achilles. Whereas he gained’t be within the lineup on Christmas like they hoped, he ought to be enjoying in January. A group that’s already arguably been the league’s finest is about to get even higher.
The Suns’ NBA Finals run final season was no fluke
The Suns went 10 consecutive seasons lacking the playoffs earlier than lastly making the postseason final yr. As soon as they bought there, all they did was attain the NBA Finals, and are available two wins wanting a championship. In the event you thought the Suns bought fortunate final yr, suppose once more: this group is even higher this season, and simply is likely to be the championship favourite proper now.
The Suns are led by their superior backcourt of 36-year-old Chris Paul and 25-year-old Devin Booker. Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton are additionally rising into stars. Monty Williams stays one of many league’s finest coaches, and he has a whole roster shopping for into his egalitarian schemes. The Suns have by no means gained a championship in franchise historical past, however this may very well be the yr.
Everyone seems to be sleeping on the Bucks
The Bucks had been down 0-2 to the Suns within the 2021 NBA Finals earlier than working off 4 straight wins to seize the championship. All Giannis Antetokounmpo did was drop 50 factors in Sport 6 to clinch the title. Coming off the quick offseason, Milwaukee had co-stars Khris Middleton and Jrue Vacation out and in of the lineup at first of the yr. Possibly that’s why it looks like everybody has forgotten about them.
The Bulls are again
The Bulls had the worst file within the NBA during the last 4 years coming into this season. Chicago underwent a daring reworking led by new entrance workplace tandem Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley over the offseason, and the consequence has been a group close to the highest of the Japanese Convention standings all yr. DeMar DeRozan is enjoying at an All-NBA degree, Zach LaVine stays a three-level scoring dynamo, Lonzo Ball is providing elite protection and spectacular taking pictures, and Alex Caruso is making the Lakers remorse letting him go.
There’s solely been one group within the league that’s a much bigger shock than Chicago.
The Cavaliers are shockingly good
The Cavs have been one of many worst groups within the NBA since LeBron James left for LA after the 2018 NBA Finals. The Cavs had been anticipated to be exterior the playoff image once more this season. As an alternative, Cleveland has been the league’s most nice shock. Right here’s how Cleveland has carried out it.
- Drafting Evan Mobley at No. 3 total. The Cavs took the 7-footer out of USC with the No. 3 total decide, and he’s been unbelievable up to now. He’s the favourite for Rookie of the 12 months, and he seems like a future celebrity enjoying the 4 subsequent to Jarrett Allen. Talking of ….
- Buying and selling for Jarrett Allen after which re-signing him. The Cavs jumped into the multi-team James Harden commerce final season to seize younger 7-footer Jarrett Allen. Cleveland then re-signed Allen to a $100 million contract over the summer season, which was questioned by some. Not anymore: Allen is enjoying the perfect ball of his profession at 23 years outdated, and helps anchor a top-five protection subsequent to Mobley.
- Growing Darius Garland. Garland was the No. 4 total decide within the 2019 NBA Draft regardless of barely enjoying throughout his one-and-done season at Vanderbilt due to an harm. The Cavs took a shot on the 6’1 level guard, and it’s paying off in an enormous approach. Garland is an excellent pull-up shooter and passer who has been the lead decision-maker for Cleveland’s halfcourt offense.
- Buying and selling for Ricky Rubio. Rubio has became among the best pickups of the offseason. The veteran guard is including some a lot wanted playmaking and perimeter protection to Cleveland, and he’s been logging much more minutes than anticipated due to Collin Sexton’s harm.
The Knicks have come again all the way down to Earth
The Knicks had been anticipated to be one of many league’s worst groups final season earlier than having fun with a improbable first yr below head Tom Thibodeau that noticed the group seize homecourt benefit within the East playoffs. As soon as they bought there, the Hawks humbled New York in 5 video games to eradicate them within the first spherical. If the Knicks had been anticipated to construct off final yr’s success, it hasn’t occurred: New York enters Christmas at 14-18 total, and would miss the play-in match if it began as we speak.
Julius Randle has taken a step again after his All-NBA season final yr. New additions Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier have been torched when enjoying collectively. Derrick Rose was serving to hold New York in video games, however he simply had ankle surgical procedure. The one silver lining? After being pulled out of the rotation earlier this season, Walker returned to drop 44 factors within the Knicks’ final recreation.
The Kings fired their coach and made their followers puke
Warning: this video is extremely gross. Identical to the Kings for the previous 15 years. No less than Luke Walton doesn’t should be round to see this.
Sure, Ben Simmons remains to be out for the Sixers
We have a full explainer on how the Philadelphia 76ers and Simmons got to this point here. Nothing has modified for the reason that finish of final season when Simmons famously struggled towards the Atlanta Hawks within the playoffs.
NBA MVP energy rankings for 2021-2022 up to now
5. Chris Paul: CP3 is averaging a career-low 14.3 factors per recreation, however he’s additionally main the league in assists at 10 dimes per evening. Extra importantly, he’s the engine that makes the whole lot go for the league-best Suns.
4. Kevin Durant: Durant is placing up practically 30 factors per recreation to guide the league in scoring. He’s additionally posting the best help charge of his profession in 12 months 14.
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo: It looks like Giannis is the sport’s most dominant defender. He’s additionally probably the most unstoppable scorer alive on the rim. It’s arduous to doubt him after seeing the way in which he rose to the event within the NBA Finals final yr.
2. Nikola Jokic: The Nuggets have fallen aside round him with vital accidents to Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., and P.J. Dozier, however Jokic continues to be arguably the best participant alive. After profitable MVP final season, Jokic is placing up even higher numbers this season. He’s unlikely to win as a result of he’s group is simply too beat as much as compete for the championship, however Jokic is principally unstoppable.
1. Stephen Curry: Curry turns 34 years outdated in March, however he’s nonetheless enjoying like he’s in his prime. He’s taking extra three-pointers than ever (13.4 per recreation) whereas remaining a 40 p.c shooter from deep. Given the Warriors’ gaudy file, Curry looks like the favourite proper now to take residence MVP honors for the third time in his historic profession.
In the event you needed to make an NBA Finals prediction proper now ….
I’d go Suns over Nets.
In the event you’re searching for a sleeper decide ….
- The Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls every really feel like they may make the NBA Finals within the East with the proper draw. The Bucks and Nets stay the favorites, although.
- Might this lastly be the yr the Utah Jazz breakthrough within the playoffs? The Suns and Warriors are the favorites, however Utah is perhaps the one different group with the expertise and scheme to compete with them.