NEW YORK -- Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose isn't sure what to make of his first Christmas Day game. He knows it's an honor to play on such a special day, but like Lakers coach Phil Jackson, LeBron James and seemingly the rest of the NBA, he'd rather be at home with his family.
"Right now, it's bad because we're traveling a lot," he told ESPNChicago.com earlier this week. "But I can't complain. This is my first time ever playing on Christmas. Everybody says it's a good thing. So I guess I'm blessed to be playing on it, because it's my first Christmas game."
That seems to be the prevailing thought throughout the Bulls' locker room as Rose & Co. get set to face the New York Knicks on Saturday afternoon.
"It's a part of the job," veteran forward Kurt Thomas said. "I have no problem with it. I really don't like playing at 12 o'clock, but the number of years I spent in New York, we had a lot of 12 o'clock games. I've never been a big fan of that, but no, I don't have a problem playing on Christmas."
Thomas is looking forward to once again playing on one of the biggest stages in basketball -- Madison Square Garden.
"There's nothing like playing in Madison Square Garden," he said. "I spent seven years there. I really enjoyed my time. The fans there are amazing and the city is amazing ... you are playing on a stage five stories up."
For Rose, the mystique of playing in such a famous arena doesn't carry nearly the same amount of weight.
"To some people," he said. "But to me it's just a regular game."
Rose would much rather have his first Christmas Day game be in Chicago at the United Center. If he and his team continue to play well the next few years, he will probably get his wish soon.
"It would be great playing here," Rose said. "But playing away, is regular, like it's an away game."
Teammate Carlos Boozer seems to be getting his groove back. However, coach Tom Thibodeau still doesn't believe Boozer is in "basketball shape."
The veteran coach believes that Boozer is still acclimating himself after sitting out the first month of the season with a broken right pinkie and will be even better in the next few months. Thibodeau also believes that Boozer will start attacking the rim even more once he becomes more comfortable in the offense.
"He's got great strength and great timing and he's a big body down there," Thibodeau said. "He's still, at times, [hesitant to attack the rim] ... I think it's more timing than anything. At times, he's probably broad jumping more than high jumping. And he's always been a very quick jumper inside. And his ability with both his right and left, we haven't really seen that yet, but it will come. It will come."
Despite the fact that he dropped 30 points against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night, Boozer knows that things will become even easier on the floor for him soon.
"Honestly, I feel like I'm getting better and better every day," he said. "I think I'm still not where I want to be but I don't think I'm too far away. As long as we continue to grind out games ... I think during games is when you find out where you are. So I'm not where I want to be but I'm very close."
Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com.