Christmas Day games ‘important’ despite lack of stars

The NBA may have delayed the start of the G-League, but the league more dead-set than Hallmark on protecting Christmas. 

The league was bound and determined to plow forward with its Christmas Day slate uninterrupted and unchanged. Though about 100 players are in health and safety protocols — stars Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Trae Young and Luka Doncic all will miss Saturday’s games — it’s easy to see the myriad reasons why. Or make that millions of reasons why. 

“There’s no doubt those five Christmas Day games are important,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Tuesday on ESPN. 

The NBA has already booked somewhere between $25 million and $30 million in advertising, per Sportico. The Nets-Lakers game at Center is the centerpiece of those five games, and the league’s most expensive regular-season ticket, at an average price of $780, according to TickPick. 

“It’s a tricky one,” Nets coach Steve Nash said when asked about the NBA’s insistence on playing despite rising COVID-19 numbers. “The league’s in a tough position. Do you shut it down and extend it or what do you do? You could shut it down and still the West Coast theoretically could get hit by the virus later and then what? We shut it down again? 

Adam Silver (main) dubbed the NBA’s Christmas Day slate, which will be without stars Kevin Durant (top left) and Trae Young (bottom left), ‘important.’
AP, Getty (2)

“I can understand it’s tricky to navigate and there’s no right answer. There’s a lot of things to consider. It’s something that they’ve probably spent way more time thinking about than I have and have their reasons so I think I should leave it to them and all the parameters that they have to deal with.” 

The Christmas slate will be watered down not just by health and protocols (affecting the Knicks’ Nerlens Noel, Atlanta’s Young, Clint Capela and Danilo Gallinari, etc.), but also by injuries to the Nets’ Joe Harris, the Knicks’ Derrick Rose and Lakers star big man Anthony Davis. 

“Is it going to be one of the premier games that I’m accustomed to playing on Christmas Day? No,” LeBron James said. “So many guys out.” 

With 13 different Nets having gone into protocols at some point since Dec. 13, Patty Mills is one of the few who hasn’t. After so many teammates have either positive or inconclusive COVID-19 tests, and the Nets have had three straight games postponed, did Mills think the league might postpone the Christmas tilt as well? 

“I’m not sure, to be honest,” Mills said. “It was one of those things where we were just taking it day-by-day and finding out what the schedule was going to be like for the next day. There was no real plan that we were aware of that we could prepare for. It was just like, well, we’ll wake up in the morning and go to work and see what happen.” 

The Nets essentially returned to practice Friday with James Harden the last man standing of the Big 3. Asked if the star worked out and how he looked, Patty Mills said: “Yes, he was here. He did practice. And what did he look like? His hair was freshly braided and looked very clean and crispy.”