While still playing for the Cavaliers, LeBron James named a couple desires for Christmas:
- Being with family
- Playing in Los Angeles
He’ll get both this year.
After visiting the Warriors in LeBron’s first season with them, the Lakers will stay in Los Angeles this year.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Malika Andrews of ESPN:
Tim MacMahon of ESPN:
This is a good slate.
Lakers-Clippers is the obvious headliner. Those teams are early championship favorites, have major star power (LeBron, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George) and play in a major market. It’s nice both teams can spend the holiday at home.
The Raptors are ending one of the NBA’s longest Christmas-game droughts. They last played in 2001. Though the Canadian market doesn’t translate cleanly for TV ratings, Toronto earned a Christmas home game with its championship. That’s how it has worked since LeBron spoke up. The Raptors won’t be as good as last season. But their opponent, the Celtics, also lost talent.
Rockets-Warriors is a playoff rematch but with enough new faces to add intrigue to this common matchup. Russell Westbrook especially shakes up Houston. Golden State lost Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson will still be sidelined. But D'Angelo Russell is a fresh face.
Bucks-76ers features the two Eastern Conference favorites. Will Giannis Antetokounmpo effectively get inside against Joel Embiid and Al Horford? If not, will Antetokounmpo have developed a better outside game? This will be a fun test of where both teams stand.
Nuggets-Pelicans lacks the combination of star power and market size in many Christmas games. But Denver should be very good, and New Orleans has Zion Williamson and enough talent to be interesting.
The best teams not to get a Christmas game: Jazz and Trail Blazers. But they’re not good enough to get up in arms about a snub, especially considering they play in Utah and Portland. The point of these games is to make money, after all.
At least there’s no Knicks, who’ve played on nine of the last 10 Christmases. New York finally built a roster so dreary, not even that large market excused it.