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NBA too early, too much on Christmas Day

As the giveaway foam fingers started fluttering down on the Staples Center floor during the Lakers-Cavaliers game - the signature match of a force-fed Christmas Day quintuplet packaged by the NBA this year - ABC thought it appropriate to hold one camera on Ron Artest, who already had fouled out and was sitting on the bench.

What a wonderful subliminal reminder of the league's ugliest moment when the potential for yet another one might have been just a beer spill away.

The image said it all for a day that went wrong from the very start, as most of New York still was yawning when the Knicks and Heat tipped off at noon.

Most people who celebrate the holiday are barely done opening presents at home, but forget the fans in attendance or even the viewing audience and consider that most of the players hardly have basketball on their minds when they get out of bed for this game. And it showed in the collective lack of energy, flow and, most of all, accuracy, as the Heat held a college-score lead (41-37) at halftime.

In the first three games on the schedule, only one of the six teams (the Cavaliers) shot over 43 percent from the field or cracked 100 points. Seven of the 10 teams in action didn't reach the 100-point mark and six of them shot under 43 percent.

Those are statistics only Jeff Van Gundy can appreciate.

His brother Stan, whose Magic team managed only 77 points and 33.3 percent shooting in a 2 p.m. tip in Orlando against the Celtics, doesn't appreciate anything about having to play games on Dec. 25.

"I actually feel sorry for people who have nothing to do on Christmas Day other than watch an NBA game," Stan Van Gundy told reporters in Orlando (and likely meaning to speak only of fellow Christians).

Doc Rivers, whose team has had to play consecutive Christmas games on the road, said he looks at being part of the exclusive schedule "as a reward."

Van Gundy admitted that his criticism is "a little disingenuous" because he and his players benefit from the financial rewards of the TV contracts that command these appearances, "but if I had my way, we'd take a five-day Christmas break. I mean it."

It's not as if the NBA should adopt the NHL's long-standing rule of a two-day moratorium on Christmas, but it was pretty obvious this year that a five-game slate - with one-third of the league in action and games starting as early as noon - is a pretty bad idea.

Let's go back to a Christmas Day doubleheader with all the trimmings - a cute video with Mariah Carey and the star players joining in - but these games belong in the late afternoon and early evening, which is generally the best couch time on Christmas Day.

New York Sports