With more than a quarter of the 2012-13 season in the books and Christmas just around the corner, every NBA team should now know enough about itself to put together a wish list this holiday season.
The Chicago Bulls might like to see a healthy Derrick Rose under the tree, and we all know the L.A. Lakers would rejoice over a fully-recovered Steve Nash.
Injury concerns aside, there are plenty of other things each NBA squad should be begging for. For example, you can bet the San Antonio Spurs would love for David Stern to give back the $250,000 he stole from them.
Of course, we all know the only way to have Christmas wishes fulfilled is to reach out to a certain jolly, red-suited individual. No, not Craig Sager. We're talking about Santa Claus (but your mistake was understandable).
Before we get started, there are three premises you'll have to accept.
First, you're going to have to believe that Santa Claus is real. That shouldn't be too tough; you did it until you were six (or 16, if you were a little slow).
Second, you'll have to believe that the letters reproduced here are also real. That'll be tough, mostly because they're not. We made them up based on what we think each team should ask for. Just go with it.
Finally, you need to pretend that Santa can bring these teams anything they want, real or imagined, tangible or intangible. It's more fun that way.
The requests are sure to be varied, and some of them are going to be tough to fulfill. But it never hurts to ask. Here are snippets from every NBA team's letters to Santa.
We've saved up a whole bunch of cap space for next summer, and we've really only done it so we can afford to max out Atlanta native Dwight Howard and at least one other blue-chip free agent after the year's over.
In an ideal world, we'd love to bring back Josh Smith, but even if we can't convince him to stay, we've got the dough to reshape our roster almost overnight.
Al Horford will still be around for a few more years, and our city is very attractive (a huge number of NBA players already make their offseason homes here), so there are plenty of reasons why we'd make a good home for Dwight.
He definitely doesn't have to be here by Christmas—next summer will do just fine—but if you're going to bring him, please advise us ahead of time. We're going to need a bigger tree. You know, for him to fit under.
The Atlanta Hawks
Man, we look old. Is there any way you could get us access to the fountain of youth? Or maybe some kind of anti-aging magic trick? We know your sleigh and reindeer can somehow fly, so we figure you've probably got an "in" with the arcane community.
Look, we know signing Jeff Green to that extension was ridiculous and he's been really awful so far, but he's not the problem.
There's no way Paul Pierce can keep up his remarkable scoring forever and Kevin Garnett just keeps crankily scowling at everyone. He's starting to freak out all the new guys we brought in last summer. Anyway, if there's something you could do to shave off a few years from our ancient roster, we'd really appreciate it.
Now, if you'll excuse us, there are some neighborhood children playing on our lawn and we have to go yell at them to get off of it.
The Boston Celtics
Cash will be fine, thanks.
We blew a billion dollars on our swanky new arena, and we're primed to take the league's biggest luxury tax hit next season because we currently have over $89 million committed to next year's salaries, so we're not really in the market for gifts.
If you'd be so kind, please go ahead and just deliver whatever money you can spare directly to Joe Johnson, who we're paying $19 million to average around 17 points per game.
Sure, our owner Mikhail Prokhorov is one of the richest dudes on the planet. But when it comes to dollars, it never hurts to have more.
The Brooklyn Nets
We'd love a smooth jazz compilation CD. You know, like the ones they have on late-night infomercials.
Basically, coach Mike Dunlap has us sprinting all over the floor on defense, full-court pressing, going for steals and trapping whenever possible. All that frenetic play has us totally frazzled, so we need something to help us relax a little.
That's where the smooth jazz comes in.
Maybe if we can calm down, we'll stop gambling so much on D and allowing disciplined teams to take advantage of our hyperactivity. After all, we started out the season at 7-7, but things have taken a serious turn for the worse.
We need to chill out.
The Charlotte Bobcats
We've written you roughly 400 letters a day since April 28, 2012. If you don't know we want our MVP back by now, then you clearly haven't been paying attention. And frankly, we don't want to live in a world where Santa ignores the heartfelt pleas of a franchise missing its cornerstone.
Perhaps the attached video will give you an idea of what we're missing.
We already have the coach and personnel to put the clamps on any team in the league. So please, for the love of Christmas, give us back our beloved Derrick Rose.
The Chicago Bulls
If it's not too much to ask, we'd love it if you could give Kyrie Irving the ability to play defense. You can do that, right?
Sure, he's one of the league's most electrifying talents on the offensive end, but we've been having to switch him off of opposing team's points guards because he's been making things too easy on them.
We've got a number of other items on our list, like a good return on an Anderson Varejao trade or some consistency from Dion Waiters, but what we really need is a more complete game from our only star.
Also, if you could rustle up a red and green, Christmas-themed mask to protect Irving's broken jaw, that'd be great.
The Cleveland Cavaliers
I see you up there in the North pole, Santa.
Listen, we know the Atlanta Hawks already asked you for Dwight Howard, but hear us out. We did everything in our power last summer to get involved in the free-agent bonanza and we struck out on Deron Williams, Howard and every other big name we swung at.
Now, we're stuck with a whole bunch of guys on one-year deals (granted, O.J. Mayo has really worked out), and we're heading into another summer with lots of money to spend.
We really can't handle another year with a roster full of the Chris Kamans and Vince Carters of the world, so if you have any decency, give us another shot at Howard. You've got powers, right? Use them to prevent the Lakers from ever winning another game.
That should drive Howard right into Mark Cuban's t-shirted embrace.
The Dallas Mavericks
What we'd really love for Christmas is a little home cooking. We've played more road contests than any team in the league, and despite that, we're still right in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race. If we could get off the road and back to Denver for a stretch, we could really do some damage.
We've already got the league's second-best home record, and everybody knows how tough it is to play in the thin air we've got up here in the Rockies. With the way we like to get out and run, our home-court advantage is almost impossible to contend with.
We have to be in L.A. to play the red-hot Clippers on Christmas Day and then finish off 2012 with trips to Dallas and Memphis on back-to-back nights. Is David Stern kidding?
This is not cool, Santa. Fix it.
The Denver Nuggets
Guys, who are we?
It's hard to come up with anything to ask for because we really don't know what we need. And that's the problem: we don't have an identity.
In years past, we were a team of savvy veterans that got by on grit and solid team play. Now, we're just a collection of mismatched parts. We've got a pair of bigs in Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond that we can't seem to put on the floor together, a whole bunch of shoot-first guards and even two holdovers from our title run a few years ago.
Hey, we've made some mistakes. Charlie Villanueva should never have gotten that big contract, and we're stuck with Corey Maggette, even though he's now out of the rotation. But we're trying to cope with them and we want to change.
So maybe some self-help books are in order.
The Detroit Pistons
We could ask for a lot of things, and you'd owe them to us because of the 20 years of misery we've endured.
Mark Jackson might be justified in requesting a Coach of the Year Award. Carl Landry might want a trophy for being the NBA's best sixth man. Heck, Andrew Bogut would love a new ankle.
But the thing we want more than anything in the world is an All-Star Game invite.
No Warrior has made the February exhibition since Latrell Sprewell (the guy on your permanent "naughty list") since 1997. That's long enough.
Check out David Lee's numbers, which rank him in the top five among power forwards in scoring, rebounding and assists. Factor in that he's been the most consistent player on the league's most pleasantly surprising team, and his case gets even stronger.
Come on, Santa. Pull some strings and get us an All-Star. You owe it to us.
The Golden State Warriors
As an acknowledgment for all of our brilliant offseason maneuverings, we'd like a pat on the back for Christmas this year.
If you look over the handful of moves we've made, it's clear we deserve some recognition.
Omer Asik, snatched away from the Chicago Bulls via a back-loaded contract, is anchoring our defense and pulling down around 11 boards per game. And James Harden, whom we got for some spare parts from the Oklahoma City Thunder, has proved to be a legitimate No. 1 option. Oh, and we also signed Jeremy Lin, who's not playing all that well, but is garnering us a ton of positive publicity.
We can't promise that we won't turn around and trade that pat on the back for a couple of draft picks and cash (that's just what we do around here), but we'd sure appreciate it.
Failing that, we'd also accept a shot doctor for Lin. We've got to straighten out that ugly jumper.
The Houston Rockets
Could you please locate and return the real Roy Hibbert? We know the guy playing center for us looks like him, but just take a gander at the numbers and it's clear we're dealing with an imposter.
Seriously, if this guy was the genuine article, there's no way he'd be shooting under 40 percent from the field. He's 7'2"! The rim's right there! How can he be missing six out of every 10 shots?
Anyway, please kindly use the GPS or whatever location services you've got equipped on the sleigh and find the Hibbert we had last year. Without Danny Granger around, we could really use his production.
The Indiana Pacers
P.S. If there's a third Hansbrough brother lying around, we'll take him. We understand that if we combine all three, they go all Voltron and turn into some kind of Super Hansbrough.
This might sound a little weird, but we need a whole bunch of brown paper bags for Christmas. Not the big ones our fans used to wear over their heads, but the kind you'd pack a lunch in.
You see, we've had a hard time catching our breath lately, since we've been doing nothing but laughing maniacally while watching the disastrous soap opera unfolding with the L.A. Lakers. So those bags could be put to great use as assistive breathing devices when we're hyperventilating from too many chuckles.
Who's the laughingstock now, Lakers?!
The Los Angeles Clippers
We don't know what we did to deserve this, but we're sorry. All the gifts we got last summer have completely fallen apart, so we're turning to you for help. Please be a pal and give us a healthy Steve Nash.
See, we're not sure if anything can save our disastrous season at this point, but he's our last hope. Based on our understanding of geography, shouldn't Canada be relatively close to your heart, if only because it's near the North Pole? We're grasping at straws here, aren't we?
Times are desperate, Santa. Just give us a few healthy months with our point guard. If we can't turn things around with him, at least we'll know it wasn't meant to be.
The Los Angeles Lakers
We seriously need a calculator.
John Hollinger, whom everyone keeps calling the godfather of basketball analytics, is apparently a VP in our organization now. You probably remember him as the guy who did that spreadsheet about which of your reindeer should and shouldn't be shooting corner threes.
Anyhow, we're going to need a way to keep up with all of the math he's been talking about.
By no means are we fearful of his giant brain and cutting-edge ideas. We're just a little worried about keeping up. Nobody wants to look dumb, you know?
The Memphis Grizzlies
Here's our Christmas card. Hope you like it.
Wow, this is a tough one. What do we, the team that has everything, have left to ask for?
The best player on the planet is on our roster, we're defending champs, we play in a city with 80-degree weather year round and we're basically good enough to coast until May.
Some might argue we should ask for a sense of urgency or better consistency on defense, but we don't really feel those are necessary. We'll just flip the switch when the time comes.
Until then, maybe you could just bring us a whole bunch of ice. We'll need that to chill the champagne this spring.
The Miami Heat
We hope Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings don't take this the wrong way, but we could really use a guard who has a clue about good shot-selection.
These guys are definitely exciting, but with both of their field-goal percentages hovering right around 40 percent, we're not exactly making the most out of our offensive possessions. Compounding the issue, our two undersized ball-handlers combine to take almost 40 percent of our shots. As you can imagine, that's killing our offensive efficiency.
Look, we're happy to have a winning record at this point, and those two guys have certainly shouldered a heavy load. But we know we can't go very far with this model.
Ellis can opt out after this season and Jennings will be a free agent. If you're not willing to take care of the issue, we'll let the open market handle it. Just thought we'd ask anyway.
The Milwaukee Bucks
Hey big guy, we're good. No, really. We don't need anything this year, thanks to the early Christmas present you gave us.
We're really happy to have Ricky Rubio, our dynamic leader and most marketable player, back in the fold. He's not quite as good as new yet, but he'll get there. When he does, our team will suddenly look like a much more formidable contender in the West.
Not to push our luck, but if you happen to have any spare knee cartilage lying around in the workshop, Brandon Roy could take it off your hands. If not, no worries. Thanks again!
The Minnesota Timberwolves
We couldn't come to a consensus, so we thought it best to just list a few things some of the guys around here have been asking for. We've kept it anonymous, but you'll probably be able to guess who wants what.
—A trip to Phoenix, which is where my heart belongs.
—The skills and huge contract of my twin (but somehow better-looking) brother.
—Eyebrow wax, preferably industrial strength.
—More eyebrow wax.
Hope this helps with your shopping, Santa!
The New Orleans Hornets
Our request: one crystal ball.
It's purpose: forecasting the likelihood of future success when a certain bespectacled power forward returns to our lineup from injury.
Things are going exceedingly well for us right now. We're shooting the lights out, taking care of the ball and proving ourselves as a legitimate title contender. So before we re-introduce Amar'e Stoudemire into the mix, we'd really like to be sure that he won't totally blow everything up.
He's not really known for his defense and we learned last year that it's basically impossible to play him alongside Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, so we're hoping to figure out if we need to just trade him now to avoid a scene.
If you can't get your hands on what we're asking for, we'll just take the title and deed to New York City. Those pesky Nets seem to think there's a question about who owns this town.
The New York Knicks
We'll take two air horns, please. Before you rip this letter up, hear us out.
We know Russell Westbrook has bumped his assist average up and Kevin Durant is playing the best ball of his career, but we're a little concerned that come playoff time, they'll both revert to some troubling old habits. For Westbrook, that'll mean taking a few too many shots, while Durant has the opposite problem. His issue is being too deferential.
So we need something coach Scott Brooks can use to get Westbrook's attention anytime he shoots on three consecutive possessions. A quick blast from the air horn should be enough to let him know he's got to tone it down. And another loud burst will startle KD if he goes more than two minutes without a field-goal attempt.
It sounds unorthodox, but our title window is open right now, so we're willing to try anything to get the most out of our big guns.
Also, Kevin would like a copy of "Doodle Jump," whatever that is.
The Oklahoma City Thunder
This one's a total no-brainer. If we keep playing like this, you're going to have to bring Jacque Vaughn the Coach of the Year Award. Have you seen what he's done with this roster? It's ridiculous.
We don't have anyone you'd even jokingly refer to as a star and we're right in the mix for one of the last few playoff spots in the East. Nobody expected anything out of this club, and Vaughn's ability to turn this bunch into a functioning team is a Christmas miracle.
We play incredibly disciplined defense, move the ball and never lose the effort battle. None of that's particularly surprising, given that Vaughn fell right out of the San Antonio Spurs' coaching tree. But it's no less impressive.
Sure, there's a huge chunk of the season left. But our coach deserves some recognition right now.
The Orlando Magic
Andrew Bynum doesn't seem all that interested in playing basketball for us this season, but he does appear to enjoy bowling. So it'd be great if you could get us a pair of size 19s for our injured center.
There's a good possibility that he hobbles away from us for nothing as a free agent this summer, so we'd like to do anything we can to improve our chances of keeping one of the only true centers this league has left. If that means encouraging a hobby that apparently set back his rehab, so be it.
If the shoes are too much trouble (we know your elves generally don't cobble), send us some clippers. Bynum's hair is officially out of control.
The Philadelphia 76ers
We're not asking you to give us anything this year. Instead, could you please take Michael Beasley away?
There's no point in denying it: we totally blew it on him. At the time, it seemed like he might be a guy who would benefit from a change of scenery, so we gave him $18 million over three years. Unfortunately, he's shooting a ton and not making anything, which is a big problem on the court.
But the real issue is his toxic effect on the locker room.
We're not talking about doing anything rash here, but if you could maybe just take him with you when you swing by Phoenix on Christmas Eve, we'd really appreciate it.
The Phoenix Suns
Give it up, Santa, you know we totally nailed our draft pick when we snagged Damian Lillard at No. 6. Here's the thing, though: we need more of him.
We don't know what kind of crazy Yuletide technology you have up there, but we know it's some top secret, next-level stuff. All we're asking is that you clone Lillard, only in four separate sizes. That way, we'll be able to fill out a starting five composed entirely of variously-sized Lillards.
Our owner Paul Allen has enough money to buy and sell your whole operation. So if you know what's good for you, you'll comply with our perfectly reasonable request.
The Portland Trail Blazers
Please hook us up with as much dynamite as your reindeer can haul, because we need to blow this thing to kingdom come.
We've managed to put together a roster that makes no sense and there's nothing we can do to fix it. We really thought that throwing nothing but low-percentage chuckers and head cases onto the court was going to work, but somehow, it's all gone horribly wrong.
Besides our hopeless roster, we really don't even know if we want to stay in Sacramento. Our fans have stopped showing up and it's pretty clear that the only way to fix this organization is to wipe it off the face of the earth and start over.
Come to think of it, does the North Pole have an NBA team? Because we could be on the move at any time.
The Sacramento (for now) Kings
Next time, we'll just call it "flu-like symptoms."
For starters, it'd be great if you could spot us about $250,000. David Stern smashed our piggy bank when we decided to rest our aging starters during a nationally-televised game, so we're a little strapped for cash.
If that's not possible, maybe you can get us a copy of an anatomy book. That way, we can just make up phony injuries when we want to rest our starters. That's apparently the message the Commissioner's office is sending. When teams lie about why they're resting their veterans, the league doesn't seem to have a problem with it.
Finally, please be sure to drop the enclosed lump of coal in Stern's stocking.
The San Antonio Spurs
Greetings from Toronto, eh.
We could definitely use some perimeter shooting from our wings and more toughness inside, but what we'd really like this year is a rabbit's foot. See, we're actually starting to play a little better lately, after losing what felt like a dozen heartbreakers to start the season.
So if we could just avoid another incredibly unlucky streak like we had in November, maybe we could start dreaming of a .500 finish.
We don't have a ton of talent, but you know what they say: It's better to be lucky than good.
The Toronto Raptors
As you know, we've got a bit of a conundrum around here. No, we're not referring to our controversial decision to force our entire roster to wear short shorts in honor of John Stockton. We still feel good about that and plan to institute it once we get league approval.
We're talking about the looming decision regarding our quartet of big men.
Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are both due to hit free agency this summer, and we're going to have to decide whether to trade one or both of them at some point. At the same time, we've got Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. They're both young, relatively inexpensive and full of potential.
So, what we're really asking for is guidance. You've got to juggle a few billion gift requests every year, so we figured you'd be a good guy to ask.
Which of the four should we keep?
The Utah Jazz
Do I hear reindeer up there?
We, as an organization, need the strength to get out of bed in the morning and face another day as the sport's worst-run franchise. In order to give us that precious gift, you're going to have to bring us a hypnotist.
Maybe he'll be able to convince us that Bradley Beal is going to turn into a real NBA player, that we're not on the hook to Nene for another $52 million over the next four years and that John Wall will someday play basketball for us again.
Obviously, living with the ugly reality of those issues and having the league's worst record is a depressing combination. We need to trick ourselves into thinking that there's a bright future here.
Hey, it's easier than actually facing the problem, right?
The Washington Wizards