Apologies in advance if this week's column is something short of brilliant; the sleeves on my jersey are really interfering with my typing.
I actually didn't watch any of the Christmas Day games live. My day was more about finding the correct number of AA and AAA batteries and making sure no treasures ended up in the trash with the spent wrapping paper. But no amount of egg nog could have made those unis aesthetically pleasing. The best takedown of the NBA's god-awful Christmas "shirseys" came from SI's Chris Mannix, who noted their striking resemblance to the uniforms worn by White Goodman's Team GloboGym in Dodgeball. The worst was from Mark Cuban, who lost his standing to complain after his Mavericks opened the 2003-04 season wearing Hefty bags.
The other big story making the rounds this week is the latest proposal to re-work the NBA draft and end "tanking" as we know it. According to ESPN's Zach Lowe, there's a proposal to replace the lottery by locking teams into specific picks on a year-to-year basis. Each team would be guaranteed the No. 1 slot once every 30 years and a top-six pick once every five. Theoretically, this eliminates the incentive to tank, because a worse record wouldn't lead to a better draft pick.
It's an interesting concept. I like the fact that it would give all teams a shot at the top of the draft on a fairly regular basis. And I can't help wondering how it would impact the trade market. It would be easier to value a future first-rounder if both teams knew, in advance, where that pick would fall.
That said, I can't help wondering if the league is looking to solve a problem that doesn't really exist.
Look at some of the teams that are supposedly tanking this season. Sure, the Sixers traded Jrue Holiday for Nerlens Noel - an All-Star guard for a big man that might not play this season. But it's not like they dismantled a top-four seed to improve their draft standing. After the failed gamble on Andrew Bynum, the 2013-14 Sixers were going to be a bad team no matter what they did. Why shouldn't they have the option to re-tool around young players and draft picks?
Same goes for the Boston Celtics. The core of their championship team was aging. At some point, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce would have to retire, and the team would have to take a major step backwards. Why shouldn't they exercise some control over that process, while sparing veteran players the hassle of playing through a rebuild?
And what about the Suns? Everyone thought they were in the tank, especially after they sent Marcin Gortat to the Wizards just as the season was starting. But thanks to an impressive debut by new coach Jeff Hornacek, the emergence of Eric Bledsoe as the biggest NBA star nobody ever talks about, and significant improvement from a number of young players, Phoenix is 17-10. And their first-round pick, center Alex Len, has barely played! If the season ended today, they'd be a six seed in the Western Conference (and a three if they played in the woeful East).
So where's the problem?
Picks for the Week
All percent-owned stats are from Yahoo!
Larry Sanders (78%) - Sanders will return to the floor on Friday after missing significant time due to a thumb injury.
Terrence Jones (38%) - Jones was red-hot in his last two games, averaging 20.5 points (56 percent FG), 9.5 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks. You won't get that sort of production from him every night, but average things out, and he's still a valuable option.
Louis Williams (27%) - Williams could get a boost in playing time - and for an extended period - if DeMarre Carroll (thumb) is sidelined for any length of time.
Danilo Gallinari (13%) - There's still no public target date for Gallo's season debut, but sometime in January seems like a reasonable guess at this point. It might make sense to claim-and-stash now if you've got an opening in a deeper league.
Mirza Teletovic (9%) - It appears that Teletovic will be the primary beneficiary of Brook Lopez' season-ending foot injury. Nets coach Jason Kidd has been starting Teletovic at power forward and sliding Kevin Garnett to the middle. That may change when (if?) Andrei Kirilenko is able to take on a full workload, but for now, slot Teletovic in as a nice source of threes.
Elton Brand (6%) - Brand could be in line for a major increase in minutes if Al Horford's shoulder injury turns out to be serious. It's probably best to put in a claim now.
Beno Udrih (5%) - Raymond Felton is out again and Pablo Prigioni is still rehabbing a broken toe, which leaves Udrih as the Knicks' starting point for the time being.
Devin Harris (1%) - The veteran guard is getting closer to making his Mavericks debut, and if healthy, could provide a nice boost to a team that hasn't gotten much production from the bench.