While James’s Los Angeles Lakers and Curry’s Golden State Warriors were included in this year’s five-game slate, which was first reported Sunday by the Athletic, Durant’s Brooklyn Nets were snubbed. That history-bucking development marks the latest twist in the Nets’ ongoing standoff with their franchise player, who has repeatedly requested a trade this summer.
Adam Silver is dissatisfied by trade requests from NBA stars
For context, James’s teams have played on Christmas every year since 2007-08 and Curry’s Golden State Warriors have appeared every year since 2013-14. Durant’s teams have been included every year since 2010-11 with the exception of 2019-20, when he was sidelined for the entire season with an Achilles’ injury.
The Lakers, who were eliminated from the playoffs last year due to injury, will visit Dallas Mavericks in a star-studded matchup between Luka Doncic (James) and Luka Doncic (Luka). The Mavericks are coming off an unexpected Western Conference finals trip and will be hosting the holiday party, while the Lakers will take to the road for Christmas 2018-19.
Curry and the defending champion Warriors are set to host Ja Morant (Memphis Grizzlies) in a rematch from their thrilling and tense playoff series. Morant, who was sidelined by a knee injury that prevented him from playing in the last three games of the series, had publicly sought the rematch.
“We got what we wanted,” Morant tweeted Saturday.
The Milwaukee Bucks will play the Boston Celtics, and the Philadelphia 76ers face off against the New York Knicks. In intraconference matchups the Denver Nuggets take on Phoenix Suns.
Jayson Tatum’s Celtics outlasted Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Bucks in a seven-game conference semifinals series, setting up an enticing rematch between the early Eastern Conference favorites. The Knicks will be hosting Joel Embiid (free agent guard) and James Harden (at Madison Square Garden). Nikola Jokic, the two-time MVP, will have another chance to face the Suns. He posted a league record 64 wins following their 2021 series win over the Nuggets.
The NBA will have to compete with the NFL Triple-Header, which features the Green Bay Packers against Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos against Los Angeles Rams, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers versus the Arizona Cardinals. However, the two leagues won’t go head-to-head in the same markets; the NBA didn’t include the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers while sending the Lakers and Suns on the road.
Durant and the Nets don’t seem to be the only ones in this snub category. Miami made the 2020 Finals and finished with the East’s best record last season, while the Clippers are expected to rejoin the title hunt with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George back healthy. Two of this offseason’s biggest buyers, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Atlanta Hawks, were left off despite adding Rudy Gobert and Dejounte Murray, respectively.
The Heat, Clippers, Timberwolves and Hawks all have cases, but they haven’t established themselves as bankable television darlings like Durant and Nets guard Kyrie Irving. Omitting Brooklyn, then, feels like a purposeful move by the league to sidestep the uncertainty around Durant’s future in favor of East teams that are more deserving (Milwaukee and Boston) and safer bets (Philadelphia and New York).
If Durant gets traded, the remaining Nets wouldn’t be worthy of center stage. Even if no trade materializes, it’s hard to bank on Durant, Irving and Ben Simmons hitting on all cylinders after all three have been consumed by off-court distractions and missed significant time over the past two seasons.
Given that Durant has been linked to both Phoenix and Boston, the NBA did create a backdoor opportunity for its holiday lineup. Imagine Durant and his new-look Celtics welcoming Antetokounmpo at the TD Garden Parquet for a superstar matchup that would rival James vs. Doncic, Curry vs. Morant. Christmas wishes don’t get much bigger and bolder than that.
Leave a Reply