Phil Jackson dislikes Christmas games
LOS ANGELES -- It's an annual holiday tradition: put the star on the tree and put the Los Angeles Lakers on TV.
And Lakers head coach Phil Jackson is tired of it.
"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 on Christmas."
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There are actually five games scheduled by the league this year -- the Chicago Bulls at the New York Knicks; the Boston Celtics at the Orlando Magic; the Denver Nuggets at the Oklahoma City Thunder; the Portland Trail Blazers at the Golden State Warriors; and the Miami Heat at the Lakers.
"I don't think anybody should play on Christmas Day," Jackson said. "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."
To get an idea of just how often Jackson and the Lakers play on the winter holiday, consider it will be the 13th Christmas Day game for 15-year veteran Kobe Bryant. He has played more games on Dec. 25 during his career than any other calendar date.
Jackson coached a handful more times on Christmas back when he was manning the sidelines for the Bulls.
"It's like Christian holidays don't mean anything to them anymore," said Jackson, the son of a minister. "We just go out and play and entertain the TV. It's really weird."
The Lakers' much-anticipated matchup with Miami's Big Three won't feature both teams at their best, according to the coach.
"I don't know if you can adequately even prepare for these games," Jackson said. "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."
Lakers home games usually tip off at 7:30 p.m. PT but the Heat game Saturday will be played at 2 p.m. PT.
"It is what it is," Jackson said. "We have to go to work and we'll do what we have to do and make the best of it."
When asked if he would bring up his issue with playing on Christmas to NBA commissioner David Stern, Jackson replied with a smile, "He'll see it."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.