It may be mid-October with the Lakers in Las Vegas for their third preseason game, but it's never too early to flip the calendar ahead.
All the way to Christmas Day, and the Miami Heat.
Before the Lakers played the Sacramento Kings Wednesday night, Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson was asked if excitement was building toward what could, by the time it rolls around, become the most anticipated regular season game in NBA history.
If nothing else, Jackson noted, participating in such an event is well-worn territory for the back-to-back champs.
"We've had Miami when Shaq was traded, then it was Cleveland. And then the opponent is Boston, that we had in the playoffs," Jackson said, noting high profile Christmas Day opponents the Lakers have faced in recent years. "I'm sure the guys are keen about it, because there's going to be a lot of anticipation from Miami coming [to Los Angeles]."
Still, Jackson made it clear he'd just as soon the big game come on a different day.
"This game is always a game we're not excited about," he said. "We know Christmas is a very tough day to play on. Our players, they're usually coming back from a road trip. They have families, little kids, and it's all part of the experience."
The bigger motivation is for the Lakers to play a quality game.
"Last year, we fell all over ourselves," Jackson said, referencing the team's 102-87 loss to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, a performance so poor it prompted some in the Staples Center crowd to toss the souvenir foam fingers distributed before the game onto the court.
Brian Kamenetzky is a writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com and co-author of the Land O'Lakers blog.