— The appetizer isn't particularly appealing.
No, that is not the jumbo shrimp cocktail, but rather the "seafood-like, pre-formed product."
In other words, feel free to skip Heat-Knicks, the first of five Christmas Day games being offered by ESPN/ABC.
As for the just deserts, Clippers-Suns is sort of the cherries jubilee without the flame (Clippers on Christmas, what were they thinking? Why not just have the Lakers play twice?) and Nuggets-Blazers hardly is an intoxicating digestif (with Denver practically feeble on the road this season and Portland lacking Greg Oden).
But the main courses?
Well, they set up as sweet as honey-baked and mint jelly.
No, Stan Van Gundy won't go full-beard and red suit, but Magic-Celtics offers the two most complete rosters in the Eastern Conference (though it loses some luster with the injury to Paul Pierce).
And Lakers-Cavaliers follows up with arguably the two most talented players in the league.
The matchup with the greatest marquee appeal is Kobe-LeBron. Yet it also is a game that could be a brutal dose of reality when it comes to supporting casts.
While Bryant is enjoying the Lakers' luxury of riches that are Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum, James again is standing somewhat alone on the shores of Lake Erie. Mo Williams won't be an All-Star again and Shaquille O'Neal hasn't deserved to be one for a while.
It is why Kobe is in the process of completing an extension and why LeBron continues to have those change-of-address cards within comfortable reach.
To understand why there will likely only be one more Lakers-Cavaliers meeting (Jan. 21 in Cleveland) between now and the crowning of the 2009-10 champion, one must look no further than the game that precedes Kobe-LeBron.
With Jameer Nelson working his way back from the injured list, with Rashard Lewis long removed from his 10-game, season-opening suspension, the Magic features the most complete starting lineup in the Eastern Conference this side of the Celtics.
That's because with the emergence of Rajon Rondo to bona fide All-Star and Kendrick Perkins' reliability in the middle, Boston features the East's ultimate five-man game.
The Magic won the first meeting of the four-game season series 82-78 Nov. 20 in Boston, behind 26 points from Vince Carter. That, however, was before Kevin Garnett again turned into Kevin Garnett.
With so much competition at the top of the Eastern Conference, the tiebreaker implications could be significant on Christmas afternoon, yes, even at this early juncture.
That's what makes Celtics-Magic the day's most significant game, even as LeBron-Kobe stands as the most significant gift.
So, to recap:
Besides, the Hawks and Mavericks are playing the following day, two teams that deserved placement on a Christmas buffet loaded with way too much filler.