Sex, Drugs and NBA Havoc: This is Christmas?
In the spirit of a sacred day, we went to a movie matinee in L.A. There, we watched Leo DiCaprio spend three hours devouring a non-stop holiday feast of cocaine, Quaaludes and hookers before his ass was thrown in the slammer for conspicuous Wall Street slimery. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire? Try Jonah Hill, all three bills of him, masturbating in front of a room full of party-goers.
The movie, ``Wolf of Wall Street,'' was specifically designed to be released on Christmas, making me wonder what happened to Christmas.
At night, I flipped on a Warriors-Clippers scrum in time to see Golden State's Draymond Green ejected for trying to behead Blake Griffin with an elbow. This was followed by Green's teammate, Andrew Bogut, engaging Griffin in some sort of MMA combat, which required a 10-minute play stoppage while officials --- maybe they hate Griffin's Kia ads -- decided Griffin should be ejected for a second technical foul when he did little wrong. Later, as the game ended with a Warriors victory, an angry Chris Paul -- not nearly as relaxed as Cliff Paul in those State Farm ads -- tried to rip the ball from Bogut, who responded by shoving Paul, which prompted Clippers hothead Matt Barnes to shove Bogut, which led to security cops and assistant coaches having to break up a near-brawl.
The rivalry, so heated that the Clippers rejected the Warriors' pre-game invitation to participate in chapel services, was specifically designed to be the last of five televised NBA games on Christmas, making me wonder what happened to Christmas.
``If you look at it, I didn't do anything and I got thrown out of the game. It all boils down to, they (referees) fell for it," said Griffin, known for pretty good acting skills himself (and I don't mean the Kia ads). ``To me, it's cowardly basketball. I don't know their intentions, but it worked. ... If I knew the answer, I'd probably be in a different position. Tonight, I got two technicals for nothing."
Were the Warriors trying to provoke Griffin? ``I don't know if they were, but it sure looked like it,'' said Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who also was ticked off and stomping his feet much of the game. ``I can't accuse them of that, but it looked like it. I'm not sure, but that's what it looked like. It's whatever you have to do to win, I guess."
``We like them. Merry Christmas,'' cracked Warriors coach Mark Jackson, insisting two teams that clearly despise each other simply were playing ``good, old-fashioned basketball.''
Yeah, sure. Can we just acknowledge, after taking in several hours of raw and raunchy entertainment, that Christmas has turned into just any other day of greed and hostility? Instead of Mariah Carey and Michael Buble doing holiday jingles, can we dig up Johnny Rotten?
And really? Five NBA games on Christmas? Short of some virtual, two-way Skype feed allowing the Heat to stay in Miami and the Lakers to stay in Los Angeles while playing a real-time game against each other, I wasn't sure how to help Dwyane Wade with a problem. He took a legitimate beef to the NBA's commissioner-in-waiting, Adam Silver, by asking why the Heat were ordered to southern California for a Christmas game when they've won the last two NBA championships.
Shouldn't his team, by virtue of its title reign, at least receive the perk of playing the Christmas game in Miami so that Wade, LeBron James and teammates could spend part of the day with their families? Silver said he would take the suggestion under advisement, according to USA Today.
I have a better idea.
How about not playing on Christmas, period?
Yes, I'm aware that commercialism has swallowed this blessed time of year, with holiday lights hanging at my mall about an hour after the last Miley Cyrus Halloween tongue was sold. Still, why must we have an NBA marathon, beginning at noon in the East and finishing well past midnight on the 26th, that gave us an escalating situation in Oakland, three non-competitive games and, thankfully, an outstanding performance by the Houston Rockets in a road win at San Antonio? The NFL is playing all 16 of its Week 17 games on Sunday, which is perfectly fine. College football's bowl season paused its mega-bloated schedule for Christmas, giving us time to digest the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl while waiting for the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl and San Diego County CU Poinsettia Bowl. But as Santa Claus went home, there was old David Stern continuing to slide down chimneys everywhere, despite lingering criticism from Phil Jackson and Stan Van Gundy -- and me -- that a relentless NBA blitz on Dec. 25 might be a bit insensitive to the religious meaning of Christmas.
``Christian holidays don't mean anything to them anymore,'' Jackson once said in harsh criticism of the league bosses.
``If you ask any player, we'd rather be home with our families,'' James said. ``It's definitely one of those days that you wish you could wake up in the morning with the kids and open up presents."
Said Van Gundy, in a classic swipe that may explain why Stern didn't want him working for NBA broadcast partner ESPN: ``I actually feel sorry for people who have nothing to do on Christmas Day other than watch an NBA game.''
I can't name anything close to an epic NBA game played on Christmas. With injuries and big-city meltdowns turning the league into a multi-car pileup this season, the holiday fare was especially weak. Chicago, without Derrick Rose, destroyed a lifeless, pathetic Brooklyn team that was called out afterward by an overmatched rookie coach, Jason Kidd, and looks like the most expensive debacle in NBA history. Oklahoma City, with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook never looking better together, blew out the Knicks, who didn't have Carmelo Anthony and don't have a pulse anymore. The Heat flew 3,000 miles to play a Lakers team that didn't have Kobe Bryant, but at least James was able to throw down two vintage dunks, one on an off-the-backboard feed from Wade, after celebrating Christmas morning with his family in a Beverly Hills hotel suite.
LeBron also spent a Hollywood moment indirectly calling out TNT analyst Charles Barkley as ``stupid,'' something James has done before. Barkley is among those who think Bryant's career is free-falling after his latest injury, a fracture in his left knee. After Bryant told reporters Wednesday that he expects to be back this season -- a blow to those who want the Lakers to lose 55 games and land a prime spot in the draft lottery -- James defended his Olympic teammate. ``I've been hearing reports about people giving their stupid opinion about what he should do," James said. ``He's not going to sit. That's not him. That's not in his nature. He's an alpha male. He's going to get healthy, and he's going to play the game that he loves and has been playing forever.
``When he gets back, he's going to play at a high level. With him, I don't expect nothing less than greatness. Obviously, we all get older each and every year, but the caliber of player he is, he can go out and put up 20 every night if he wanted to."
My goodness, even LeBron was mad about something on the holiday. Cue John Lennon, please.
``So this is Christmas. And what have you done ?''