NEW YORK — If the NBA had a Christmas wish, it might be for a different holiday schedule.
The one that was drawn up seemed strong enough when it was released, a potentially dynamite five-game treat from noon through night today, packed with superstar scorers and championship contenders.
But like an old Christmas sweater, it doesn't look nearly as good now that time has passed.
Back luck and bad play have wrecked a number of teams the league picked to showcase. Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant and Brook Lopez are all sitting out, as are Indiana and Portland, who share the NBA's best record.
But hey, there are two 9-18 teams and one that's 10-16.
The Heat and Lakers got the late-afternoon marquee time slot, but it's certainly no marquee attraction now that it won't feature a LeBron James-Bryant duel.
"That's probably not the matchup they wanted," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said.
The schedule is such a letdown that not until the fourth game will winning teams meet, when the Rockets visit the Spurs. Rivers' team travels to Golden State in the nightcap.
Before that, the Bulls, Nets and Knicks all get TV time, all chosen for the honor long before anyone could have known they would sometimes look unwatchable.
"Those things are done way ahead of time. You just hope for the best matchups. Unfortunately, the Derrick Rose injury puts Chicago in a tough spot. Brooklyn and New York have not played particularly well," said Jeff Van Gundy, who will work the Heat-Lakers game on Ch. 28.
"But I still think people will watch. It's Christmas Day, and people still care deeply about the Bulls and about the Knicks, even though they haven't played particularly well of late."
Christmas is something of a second opening day for the league, often the first time a national audience begins paying attention as football nears its conclusion. The league decided to capitalize a few years back by increasing to a five-game schedule that begins at noon.
The Christmas games have averaged more than 33 million U.S. viewers over the past three years.
ANTHONY'S STATUS: Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, who sprained his left ankle Monday against the Magic, will be a game-time decision for today's matchup with the Thunder.
PIERCE FINED: Nets forward Paul Pierce was fined $15,000 for his flagrant foul on the Pacers' George Hill in Monday's game. Pierce clotheslined Hill while the point guard was going in for a layup.
GRIZZLIES: The team signed guard Seth Curry, who had been playing with the Santa Cruz Warriors of the NBA Developmental League.
LAKERS: Point guard Jordan Farmar was cleared to return from a left hamstring tear.