Lakers vs. Heat: Merry Christmas!

Because Timberwolves vs. Kings is too big to waste on a day where fans might be distracted by toys or ham.

Fortunately, the NBA was left with a decent consolation prize, insofar as ratings go. For the second straight season, LeBron James will return to Los Angeles on Christmas Day, though this time it'll be in a different uniform (perhaps you heard he changed teams). There was certainly a chance the league could have gone Lakers vs. Celtics ... but not really. L.A. vs. the SuperTeam! is the true made-for-X-Mas matchup, hypnotic as the yule log. Just as Christmas seems to arrive in stores earlier and earlier every year, so too will the hype and buildup for this game.

As in ... now.

From a national standpoint the Lakers are likely- and this could constitute something of a change from the norm- to be the team in the proverbial white hat, not just the white Sunday unis. The Heat- and LeBron- will rebound a little in the popularity department over time, but it could take a while and Christmas is too soon. It'll be interesting to see how things shake out should both teams enter on a roll. (I assume they'll be undefeated.)

Of course, you can't get to Christmas without opening night. The Lakers will receive their '09-'10 title rings -- likely large enough to be seen from space -- October 26th vs. the Houston Rockets, the second half of a double-header featuring the Celtics and Heat in Boston. Serious bling plus the return of Yao Ming! Yes, I'm making this tagline available to TNT for a small fee. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Lakers will host Oklahoma City in a rematch of last season's opening round of the Western Conference playoffs.

The league will release the rest of the schedule on the 10th, but so far we're guaranteed three good games! Only 79 left to go. While you wait, feel free to exercise your democratic rights.