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Christmas Edition: 2009
Well, now that Kansas University has hired Turner Gill and things have settled down a bit in the football offices, it’s time to return to what really matters this time of year — Hoops!
The top-ranked Kansas Jayhawks have gotten off to a great start (10-0) and Bill Self’s squad appears to be poised to make a serious run at another Final Four and national championship.
But that’s not the only good news for Jayhawk fans this time of the year. Not anymore. Nearly a dozen former Jayhawks continue to make names for themselves throughout the National Basketball Association and it has been this blog’s mission to keep you guys updated on the latest happenings around the association.
Although we’ve gotten off to a slow start this season, we have some great things in store for the coming year and have made it our New Year’s resolution to get this blog hopping again like it was last season.
With that in mind, here’s a quick breakdown of what you can expect from the ‘Hawks in the NBA on Christmas Day. Christmas has long been known for things like caring, sharing, family and friends. But around here, it’s also come to be known as one of the biggest days of the NBA’s regular season.
The following is a Jayhawk fan’s guide to NBA basketball on Christmas Day.
Game # 1 — Miami Heat at New York Knicks, 11 a.m. Central Standard Time, ESPN
A few months ago this game looked like it would be one of the most enjoyable games for former Jayhawk fans to watch. KU’s hero of the 2008 national title game, Mario Chalmers, was at the outset of his highly-anticipated second season and there are few better places to watch basketball — as well as few bigger stages — than New York’s Madison Square Garden. Fast-forward to today and things aren’t quite as rosy in the Big Apple. Chalmers has lost his starting spot to Carlos Arroyo and appears to be in Heat coach Erik Spoelstra’s dog house a little bit. It’s not like Chalmers isn’t playing anymore. He’s still in the 25-30 minute range and his numbers — 9 points, 2.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.4 steals per game — are still pretty good. But Arroyo has played well and the Heat (13-12) have won with him in there. That might not be the best sign for Chalmers’ future in South Beach, but it’s probably a little early to panic, too.
Game # 2 — Boston Celtics at Orlando Magic, 1:30 p.m. Central Standard Time, ABC
Don’t look now but Paul Pierce is quietly putting together another fine season. That’s probably no surprise to Jayhawk fans and it might continue for several more seasons. Pierce enters the Christmas showdown with the Magic averaging 18 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists per game. What’s more, he’s helped the Celtics race out to a 21-5 start and has done a lot of his damage on the defensive end, an area that this team might be head and shoulders above anyone in the league in. If seeing “The Truth” in action in a big-time game isn’t enough for you, you might want to take into account the fact that Kevin Garnett will be playing in this one, too, and with that guy there’s no telling what kind show we might be in store for — on and off the court.
Game # 3 — Cleveland Cavaliers at Los Angeles Lakers, 4 p.m. Central Standard Time, ABC
For NBA fans, this might be the best Christmas gift of all: a look at what many had hoped would be last year’s NBA Finals until Orlando crashed the party and ruined it for everyone. Although the KU tie to this game is very limited — you might catch a few glimpses of Darnell Jackson (4.7 minutes per game in 14 appearances) on the Cleveland bench — there’s still plenty of other reasons to tune in. For starters, it’s Kobe and LeBron, commercial puppets come to life. In addition to that, you’ve got two teams with 43 combined victories playing in Hollywood for all the world to see. It might not be playoff basketball, but it should be the next closest thing. Besides, it’ll also be fun to see how many celebs make it out to the Staples Center on Christmas Night and which ones are wearing their worst Christmas sweaters.
Game # 4 — Los Angeles Clippers at Phoenix Suns, 7 p.m. Central Standard Time, ESPN
No real KU ties to this game and no real reason to watch since former Oklahoma star Blake Griffin (last June’s No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft) still has yet to play a game. If you’re looking for a time to squeeze in a nap, this might be it. Or, if you’re an NFL fan, you could take this time to flip over to the NFL Network to watch the San Diego Chargers take on the Tennessee Titans. The Chargers, as you may remember, feature former KU linebacker James Holt seeing some PT on special teams and in certain defensive packages.
Game # 5 — Denver Nuggets at Portland Trail Blazers, 9:30 p.m. Central Standard Time, ESPN
Look... I don’t blame you if you don’t want to watch this one. No matter how many years go by, I know that the memories of Carmelo Anthony’s Syracuse squad upending Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison in the 2003 national title game still sting. But if you’re looking for a reason to cozy up next to the fire and root, how about this: Portland GM Kevin Pritchard was the starting point guard on KU’s 1988 national title team. It might not erase the memories of that ‘03 loss, but it’s at least another reason to root for a former Jayhawk.
Happy Holidays, everyone!!! We’ll see you in the new year.