Listen, I get it… we all have our holiday traditions. On Thanksgiving, we wake up hungover, miss the Turkey Trot, gorge on a bunch of fantastic food, and sit down to watch football while slipping in and out of a food-induced coma the rest of the afternoon… until it’s time to wake up and heat up some Tupperware containers of leftovers. On July 4th? It’s baseball. There are beers, hot dog eating contests, and a night full of fireworks. And on Christmas Day? Even if you don’t celebrate, everyone can enjoy a slate of NBA on Christmas Day.
To paint the picture: the little kids wake up hours before sunrise. They wait to get out of bed until their alarm clock says Mom and Dad said it’s ok to get up. Dad gets the video camera, Mom asks the kids to be careful while peeling through packages. Eventually, there is wrapping paper everywhere except on the gifts, which cues one of the parents to go make pancakes while the other dives into their first, strong eggnog. As the eggnog gets browner, family and friends cycle through until it is lunchtime. After lunch, everyone sits in the living room while the kids run around with their new gadgets or gizmos.
And in the background, sometimes silently, is the NBA on Christmas Day. It’s on the TV from the second serving bowl of eggnog (noon eastern, promptly) until well into the early hours of the next morning. While fans slice a Christmas ham the size of a basketball, All-Stars are slicing through defenses. It’s become a tradition as old as time. Christmas colors are Claus’s crimson, the Grinch’s green, and Adam Silver’s orange basketball.
We all sit around and watch part of, if not all of, five NBA games on Christmas every year. We celebrate Christmas with our families and our fan-ilies
This year, many of our traditions were taken away because of COVID-19. That Turkey trot couldn’t happen. Baseball was replaced with Disney+ and Hamilton. Families were told to keep gatherings small and to a minimum, including upcoming Christmas congregations… so you’ve got to make your own eggnog. But the NBA on Christmas Day? Adam Silver is giving that gift to us this winter. Now that the schedule is out, Santa Silver has given us: presents or coal? Let’s go through the schedule and see.
ESPN Sources: Tentative Christmas Day Schedule pic.twitter.com/MId025HKvB— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 2, 2020
12:00 ET New Orleans Pelicans vs. Miami Heat
Of the slate of five games, this one makes the least sense… New Orleans is a team that has some young stars that almost made the NBA Playoffs in Orlando at the end of the summer. Miami is a team that has some young stars, and Jimmy Butler, and almost won the NBA Championship. That’s the entire storyline.
Will it be a fun game? Absolutely. Young sensations Zion Williamson and Tyler Herro on the floor together before they can even legally enjoy that eggnog? Young All-Star Bam Adebayo defending the paint from young All-Star Brandon Ingram. Jimmy Butler undoubtedly wearing something WILD while he is walking in the tunnel early on Christmas morning… What more could you ask for?
As far as the matchup goes, in reality, Adebayo and Butler have proven to be one of the league’s top duos. They offer creative playmaking and defensive intensity that is unparalleled, and they have a flexible and dynamic cast around them. Williamson and Ingram are future faces of the league and have new additions in Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe. This will be a fun game to start the day but could be over quicker than a kids’ gift unwrapping. This is a quick and exciting game, kind of like lighting… coal.
2:30 ET Golden State Warriors vs. Milwaukee Bucks
The intrigue in this game may very well come after it is over, which is fitting as its time would make it the least-watched game on a normal Christmas. On a normal Christmas, half the country is eating their big lunch while the other half is finishing up their gift unwrapping… this isn’t an ideal time normally. But this year none of the norms matter, so tune in for a real treat.
This game features four of the last six MVP trophies at one time. Steph Curry and the new-look Warriors head to Milwaukee to play Giannis Antetokounmpo in what may be his swan song with the Bucks. Second-overall pick James Wiseman will have his handsful keeping the Greek Freak from the rim while also getting out to cover Brook Lopez’s long-range. To have any kind of a chance, Steph Curry may need to have 50 points… But if any member of the FCA were to have a 50-burger for Christmas lunch, wouldn’t it be Curry?
This game has the star power, but the narrative is what’s fun. Golden State has been on the shortlist of teams that want to find a way to pull Giannis from the Bucks. If Giannis has not signed his extension by December 21st, the same week as this game, Milwaukee will have to gamble. Either they trade him by the deadline to get a monster package back for the All-Pro big man, or they risk losing him in the summer for nothing. The Warriors will be playing against Giannis on the floor on Christmas day, but will they be taking him as their new toy on the plane back home? Just the discussion surrounding the endless possibilities, on a day when we may all miss the constant conversations of a full home on Christmas, make this a gift we didn’t know we needed.
5:00 ET Brooklyn Nets vs Boston Celtics
I’m not sure what the Flat Earth Society normally does on Christmas, but I have an idea of what they’ll be doing on Jesus’s birthday this year. Kyrie Irving (and his buddy Kevin Durant, a very important part of the equation) will play his old team in Boston. While the Garden won’t have a sell-out crowd to welcome him properly, Irving will undoubtedly be out for revenge against Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
If that wasn’t intriguing to the average fan that isn’t a bitter Bostonian, this is the first week we will get to see Kevin Durant play since snapping his Achilles tendon in the 2019 NBA Finals. Durant is a seven-footer with sniper-like accuracy from deep. His game does not rely on athletic explosion, even if it helped. Even if he has slowed down, Kevin Durant is must-watch television. If anything, when you hear “slow seven-foot scorer with a multitude of ways to get an unblockable shot off from the perimeter,” your mind goes to 2011 NBA Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki. We’re all tuning in to see what Durant can do, but rest assured: he’s going to be able to put on a show.
With how quickly he was injured, and the amount of time it has been since we last saw him, it’s so much more clear how much of a gift it is to watch Kevin Durant play basketball… and on Christmas Day we all get that gift.
8:00 ET Dallas Mavericks vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Rick Carlisle. (Also) LeBron James.
Listen, this matchup is the primetime game because it sells itself. Luka Doncic continues to be the best young basketball player since LeBron James, and LeBron James continues to show the world age is just a number. Both are paired with long, athletic unicorns- erm, one unicorn and one unibrow. The Lakers are defending their title against their heir apparent.
The Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks offered a handful of fun games the last two seasons, perhaps none more memorable than their overtime duel in the first week of last season. In the first week of this one, expect the same fireworks.
As we all sit around a table and sing Halleluka, this one is a clear gift.
10:30 ET Los Angeles Clippers vs. Denver Nuggets
Ok, by this point on Christmas, whether it’s a normal Christmas or Christmas 2020, you will have had a lot of eggnog. If anything, as you ran out of mix, you’ve slowly moved into plain George Dickel. And all that means is this game has even more potential to make you laugh. We all laughed at the Clippers for losing to the Nuggets in September, even when we saw it coming.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will be the heavy favorites on Christmas Day. They have retooled, refocused, and are ready to go. The Denver Nuggets still have Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, but they lost a key starter in Jerami Grant. But listen, no matter how this game goes the jokes won’t stop. If Denver takes a big lead? “Denver in 8.” If the Clippers get a big lead? “Well, we saw how this movie ends.” And if the game is close? “Looks like they’re choking it away again.”
And God willing, the Clippers will be up 31 points in the third quarter… and the game will still come down to the wire.
The Clippers did make conscious efforts to improve, but the Nuggets did have something very clearly figured out in their last meeting. Once Denver did that in Game 5, there was no turning back. Will that carry over to the new season?
The new season, and the storylines like these that continue, is a gift. Thank you, Santa Silver. Merry Christmas.