Doc Rivers likes Christmas games
On the same day Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson said the NBA shouldn't play on Christmas, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers dubbed it an honor to play on one of the league's marquee regular-season dates.
But he agreed with Jackson in saying that there are now too many games on Dec. 25.
"Honestly, when you play on Christmas Day, some guys are upset over it because you can't spend time with your family," Rivers said. "I look at it as a privilege. The fact that they asked us to play on Christmas means we're one of the good teams, one of the featured teams. I wish they would reduce the games on Christmas. I thought it was more special when it was two games. Now it's up to five, six, or seven games. That's too many."
Rivers can't complain about the schedule-makers too much. After all, Boston spent last year in Rivers' backyard in Orlando and will do the same this season. The Celtics tangle with the Magic at 2:30 p.m. ET on Christmas Day -- one of five NBA games on the schedule.
"It's far more special when it's in Orlando," Rivers said, joking. " I think that's where we should have all the games. I think that would be terrific, for a lot of reasons."
Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal echoed Rivers' sentiments about playing on Christmas.
"It's special because the whole world is watching," said O'Neal, who hopes to be back on the floor after missing 18 straight games. "It's Christmas, it's a special day, with everybody together to spend time with each other, as far as family and friends. We have the opportunity to do that, bringing our families down with us. It makes it that much more special -- the opportunity to play in front of the rest of the world and be together at Christmas with our family."
Jackson, however, wasn't quite as cheery about another Lakers game on Christmas.
"It used to be two teams," Jackson said. "It used to be Phoenix and L.A. and New York and Boston, or New York and Philly or somebody on the East Coast. Now I see that they have like six games [actually five] on Christmas.
"I don't think anybody should play on Christmas Day. Soccer teams don't play this time of year, they take a break. I don't understand it. ... When I was in the CBA, we had a commissioner who had a Christmas Eve game. I had to call him up and say that's the holy time.
"You just have to keep reminding them that this is a special day."
And Jackson, whose squad faces the Miami Heat at 5 p.m. ET on Christmas, did his best Tuesday to keep reminding the NBA of that.
"It's like Christian holidays don't mean anything to them anymore. We just go out and play and entertain the TV. It's really weird," he said.
"I don't know if you can adequately even prepare for these games. You don't have a walk-through on the day of the game. It's just a difficult game. ... Your little kids are putting batteries in toys to put their Christmas presents together, there's all kinds of crazy stuff going on and now your head's got to get focused on a game in the middle of the afternoon on Christmas Day? That game is just real hard to measure how to bring focus to it.
"It is what it is. We have to go to work and we'll do what we have to do and make the best of it."
Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com.
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