Sports Pulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick, Jeff Zillgitt and AJ Neuharth-Keusch got together to grade the offseason for several NBA teams.
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Year after year, the NBA fills its Christmas Day stocking with all sorts of goodies for hoops fanatics the world over. And as the league announced on Thursday, this year will be no different.
The NBA also unveiled the national TV schedule for the first four days of the regular season, and just like Christmas Day, the slate of games doesn’t disappoint.
While the season’s entire schedule won’t be released until next week, here’s a look at the lineups for Dec. 25 and opening week.
* All times Eastern
Philadelphia 76ers at New York Knicks, 12 p.m. on ESPN
The Knicks are a mess right now, what with Phil Jackson having been ousted and Carmelo Anthony’s future – much like Kyrie Irving’s – in limbo after he made it clear he’d rather be wearing Houston Rockets red. But with young stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons finally healthy enough to be at their best, as well as the addition of veteran shooting guard J.J. Redick and No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz, Philly should be interesting all season long.
Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors, 3 p.m. on ABC
One major qualifier here: Interest in this game is subject to change depending on Irving’s uncertain status. After asking for a trade last month, the Cavaliers point guard is still waiting to find out which jersey he’ll be wearing this season. Nonetheless, the LeBron James vs. Steph Curry, Kevin Durant et al component is more than enough to warrant watching on its own. These two teams have faced off in an unprecedented three consecutive Finals, and they’ll now see each other on Christmas Day for the third consecutive year.
PHOTOS: Best of Warriors-Cavaliers, Round 3
Washington Wizards at Boston Celtics, 5:30 p.m. on ABC
The Irving situation has opened a door of opportunity for all the other elite squads in the Eastern Conference, with teams like the Celtics and Wizards talented enough to take that next step. So beyond this being a rematch of the Eastern Conference semifinals matchup that Boston won in seven games, it’s another chance for these teams to assert themselves on that front. The Celtics…