The Warriors got walloped by the Bucks in Milwaukee on Christmas last year.
Playing the Suns in Phoenix in the biggest game of this year’s Christmas schedule tomorrow, Golden State isn’t enthused about being on the road again.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr, via Ali Thanawalla of NBC Sports:
“Generally, I like playing on Christmas,” Kerr said. “It’s exciting. I love playing at home on Christmas. That way you can still have a good family day. Christmas morning with the kids and then go down to the arena later. It’s tough being on the road for Christmas, but it’s part of being in the NBA. And it is an honor to play on Christmas. It’s a showcase and everybody is watching.
“I do think there should be a rule in the NBA that you can be on the road two years in a row. Just making that clear. Last year we were in Milwaukee and this year we’ll be in Phoenix. That doesn’t seem right. I’m confident that next year we will be at home for Christmas or we will all protest and not show up.”
“I think that’s legit,” Green told reporters, referring to Kerr’s comments. “I have a 7-year-old, a 5-year-old and a 1-year-old. I want to spend some time at home with my kids too. We’re not playing against the defending champion. If we’re playing against the defending champion, you understand. But we’re not. It’s a bit frustrating to have to go on the road a second year in a row. So now I’ve missed my daughter’s first Christmas and I’ll miss her second one.
“It’s kind of f—ed up. But it’s the reality. That’s what we’re faced with. I have a job. You have to go do your job. But we’re human beings too. I like I said, I missed her first one and I’ll miss her second one. I can’t explain that to her. So it sucks. We’re not robots. We’re not machines. We’re actual human beings with actual feelings, with actual families. As I said before, we’re playing against the defending champion, you got to go on the road, that’s just what it is. If we were headed to Milwaukee, it is what it is, but we’re not.”
Teams commonly play consecutive Christmas road games.
The Nets (at Celtics last year, at the Lakers this year) and Mavericks (at Lakers last year, at Jazz this year) are also playing back-to-back Christmas road games.
The Thunder played three straight Christmas road games 2012-2014. The Celtics played five straight Christmas road games 2008-2012. Boston played eight straight Christmas road games 1948-1955!
So, it’s not as if Golden State is facing a unique predicament.
But it can be frustrating to be away from family during holidays. Green mostly strikes a nice balance between being candid with his feelings – always appreciated – while acknowledging he has a (highly paid) job to do. He doesn’t need to pretend he loves every aspect of playing tomorrow as long he brings proper professionalism (which he has a long track record of doing).
That said, Green sounds a little spoiled (like with his thoughts on making the play-in tournament). Many teams would love to play in the Christmas spotlight. It’s clearly not as special to him anymore. Understandable, considering this will be Golden State’s ninth straight Christmas game. But it’s worth acknowledging many players pine to play on national television on the NBA’s premier regular-season date.
Green’s talk about playing in Milwaukee again also veers toward out of touch. Unless the league goes to a single-game Christmas schedule, some teams will have to play on the road against a team that isn’t defending champ. Why would the Warriors, who haven’t even made the playoffs the last two years, be entitled to that marquee game?
Maybe Kerr and Green will prompt change. In 2013, LeBron James complained about the defending-champion Heat going on the road for Christmas. The NBA then implemented a policy of the reigning champion hosting on Christmas.
If the league doesn’t act unilaterally, the players’ union could push for a rule limiting consecutive Christmas road games. The Collective Bargaining Agreement already contains a few Christmas safeguards. Teams aren’t required to play on Christmas unless the game is nationally televised. Teams home on Christmas can practice only if its players request it and get a different day off within a week.
Of course, owners would push for a concession in return. Christmas games are key elements of the NBA’s lucrative national-TV contracts. If limited in flexibility to set the best Christmas matchups, the NBA might draw less money on those TV deals. Though revenue is split between owners and players, owners can skip Christmas games if they choose. Healthy players are required to show up. So, owners would more strongly object to forgoing that revenue.
For Green and Kerr, it’s about setting priorities. Spending time with family, especially on Christmas, is important.
But as Don Draper says, that’s what the money is for.