Merry Christmas! (Or happy almost-sixth-night of Hanukkah. Whatever works.) You probably didn't notice, but there was a professional sporting league that was supposed to start earlier than it wound up starting. It's starting right about now. Join me to talk about these genuinely scintillating games, won't you?
Celtics at Knicks, noon, TNT: How great is this, huh? Two teams that didn't get Chris Paul, battling in advance of their inevitable Eastern Conference quarterfinals matchup in spring 2012. The Celtics didn't change much over the offseason—save for Shaq's retirement and a Brandon Bass trade—while the Knicks dumped yet another point guard so that they could land Tyson Chandler. New York now rocks a sweet Toney Douglas/Mike Bibby/Baron Davis troika.
Heat at Mavericks, 2:30 p.m., ABC: How terrific is this, huh? These teams played each other last time the NBA convened. It was a big thing. They're back here, a little older and a little wiser, with some new Shane Battiers and Lamar Odoms.
Bulls at Lakers, 5 p.m., ABC: How awesome is this, huh? Chicago came close last year. The Lakers didn't. The Lakers got worse during the offseason—Josh McRoberts notwithstanding—and the Bulls got better, adding Rip Hamilton. But the game's in L.A. and Dyan Cannon will probably be painted green in the Grinch's honor, and Kobe will have six floozies behind the bench, and that means home-court advantage.
Talk down here!