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The Boston Globe


NBA’s Christmas slate now a bit disappointing

Derrick Rose isn’t playing because of an injury.

Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY Sports

Derrick Rose isn’t playing because of an injury.

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, packed with superstar scorers and championship contenders.

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But like an old Christmas sweater, it doesn’t look nearly as good now that time has passed.

Bad 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 Miami Heat and Los Angeles 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.

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Not until the fourth game will two winning teams meet, when Houston visits San Antonio. Rivers’s team travels to Golden State in the nightcap.

Before that, Chicago, Brooklyn, and New York 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 ABC.

‘‘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 a second opening day for the NBA, 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 US viewers over the last three years, so Van Gundy is probably right about fans still tuning in, even for a matchup that looks as ugly as the sleeved jerseys the players will wear.

‘‘On the NFL, I’ve seen plenty of weak Thanksgiving games, but we still watch,’’ Rivers said. ‘‘Now it’s becoming basketball on Christmas. That’s the good part, that the NBA has found that niche.’’

After Chicago (10-16) and Brooklyn (9-18) meet in the opener, Oklahoma City visits New York, matching the NBA’s top two scorers in Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks are a Christmas tradition, making their league-high 49th appearance, and the league hopes they’ll provide a big audience despite their 9-18 record. Anthony will be a game-time decision, however, after spraining his left ankle Monday at Orlando, and Raymond Felton is out with a strained groin.

Injuries have hit hard around the NBA and the Christmas lineup is no exception. With Rose and the Lakers’ Steve Nash out, two of the six players in the league’s holiday jingle ad touting the games won’t be playing.

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