Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Grinch that stole Christmas in south Texas

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA - The Holidays are a lot of things to a lot of people.

Whether it's the gift-giving, the music, the greeting cards, the church celebrations, the display of various decorations or just a special meal, the Holidays are supposed to be a time for family and friends.

Not in the sports world, however. Working during holidays is just part of the package for anyone involved in the industry.

In recent years Christmas has become a big day for the NBA with five stand- alone games from noon (et) all the way until 10:30, usually with the league's marquee teams holding down the prime spots. This season the headliners feature Eastern powers Boston and Orlando followed by Kobe and the Lakers vs. LeBron and the Cavs.

Kevin Garnett and the Celtics look to take on the Magic on Christmas Day.
It's a time for the league to put its best foot forward to a potentially massive viewing audience and I've never had a problem with it.

That said, the NBA probably went a little too far when they put together the Houston Rockets' sked this season and Rick Adelman just couldn't hold his tongue when asked about his team's strange upcoming stretch that features four back-to-back games over the next two weeks.

"We have a horrendous stretch here," the Rockets' mentor said. "I don't know if the league really understands that they gave us four straight back-to- backs. It's awful."

Houston begins its torturous journey by hosting Detroit on Tuesday before flying to the Rocky Mountains for a date with the first-place Nuggets on Wednesday. A visit to Dallas follows on Friday, Dec. 18 before a home engagement with Oklahoma City on Saturday.

The team then toils on consecutive nights twice more during Christmas week, playing the Los Angeles Clippers at home on Dec. 22 and Orlando on the road on Dec. 23, before road games against New Jersey (Dec. 26) and Cleveland (Dec. 27).

The schedule leaves little time for practice and, perhaps more importantly, little time for the players to spend with their loved ones during the Holidays.

"It's utterly ridiculous," Adelman said. "This is the most ridiculous schedule I've ever seen."

Realizing the league was in a no-win situation, NBA spokesman Tim Frank declined to comment on Adelman's statements in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

There is no truth to the rumor Frank's boss, David Stern, is a wicked-tempered grouch living in a mountain cave just north of Houston, planning on preventing Christmas in south Texas.

But, I'm quite sure Mr. Stern's heart won't be growing three sizes this Holiday season.

In Dr. Seuss' 1966 animated classic the Grinch figures out..."Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more."

The Houston Rockets won't have the time this Holiday season to learn the same lesson.

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