For the third straight year, Paul Pierce will awaken to play on Christmas in New York.
The feeling never gets old.
Playing on Christmas Day — the traditional start of the NBA’s national broadcast schedule, and when fans seem to begin paying more attention to basketball as football winds down — is still a big deal to players. Pierce is trying to make sure that the Washington Wizards understand the significance.
Of the 14 players currently on the Washington roster, eight have never played in a Christmas game. Pierce has played in five, not including two others that he missed because of injury.
“By Christmas, you should know what type of team you are,” Pierce said. “You should have an identity. Around Christmas, this is the time you should be showing everybody, ‘This is who we are.’ You’re in it or you’re out of it. This the time for the rest of the league, the rest of the world to find out, this is who we are.”
And now for the first time since 2008, the Wizards get to play on the league’s showcase day.
“A lot of times, I’m opening presents with my kids the day before because I’m gone on Christmas,” said Pierce, who visited New York for a game against Brooklyn (when he was still with Boston) on Dec. 25 in 2012, and was part of a home game with Brooklyn on the holiday last year. “I think out of six or seven Christmas games, I think I’ve played at home one time. We’ve been on the road pretty much the whole time.
“Sometimes you get to be there and open presents with your kids and enjoy the day with them. But they get to watch Daddy on TV and know I’ll be coming home that night, so it’s fun.”
Pierce thinks the biggest gifts for the Wizards are yet to come.
“I knew I was coming to a team that was hungry, wants to win and wants to take the next step,” Pierce said. “A lot of these guys, they’ve exceeded expectations … and from the outside looking in, you can say ‘Man, they look hungry.’ But you don’t know how much until you see them every day. They don’t want to be good. They want to be great.”
Thumbnail photo via Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports Images
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