Pacers wishing for a Christmas Day game soon

Darren Collison, Pacers

The Indiana Pacers won’t play on Christmas Day in 2018. They were not one of the 10 teams scheduled on what has become a showcase day full of hoops for The Association. That’s good news or bad news – depending on your perspective (and role).

“I rather play. It’s a special day,” All-Star Victor Oladipo said at Christmas time last year. “That’s big. It’s kind of like football on Thanksgiving. I would like to play, so hopefully next year we get that opportunity.”

Fans will see five games over 12-plus hours, beginning at noon ET and running after midnight on the East Coast.

Bucks at Knicks (12:00 pm), Thunder at Rockets (3:00 pm), 76ers at Celtics (5:30 pm), Lakers at Warriors (8:00 pm), and Trail Blazers at Jazz (10:30 pm).

Each of those should be interesting, excluding the opening game. But the Knicks are the Knicks and they generally draw an meaningful audience.

The Pacers have played on Christmas Day — which has become something special like Thanksgiving for NFL teams — four times in NBA franchise history … but it’s been 14 years since their last opportunity.

1981: at Washington (Lost, 115-98)
1999: vs New York (Won, 101-90)
2000: vs Orlando (Won, 103-93)
2004: at Detroit (Lost, 98-93)

David Benner, the Pacers’ Director of Media Relations, is entering his 25th season with the franchise.

“We’ve played on Christmas and it was enjoyable to have the notoriety of doing it,” he said on the Pacers Podcast. “We used to play on Thanksgiving all the time and now we play the next night, and it became a unique feature for the franchise. I understand that you’re putting out of workers, families, but it happens.

“The Christmas Day thing — I always thought we might get a game sooner or later. But apparently it’s going to be later.”

Although they haven’t been featured in more than a decade, they have played the day after Christmas in each of the last four seasons. They have all been road games, which required the team to travel on Christmas Day – Bojan Bogdanovic’s favorite Holiday, like most of us.

“I think you can play and be with your family,” said starting point guard Darren Collison. “I think it’s fine playing on Christmas Day. I got the chance to play one time in my career and it was a special game, not because it was a Christmas Day game but you just know the whole world is watching. You’re on national television and it’s a marquee matchup.

“Everybody has off on that day and they’re just watching. It’s a historic game that they’ve been playing for a long time where a lot of fans keying on those marquee games.”

Lance Stephenson once played on Christmas Day, in 2015 while with the Los Angeles Clippers. They were matched up against the Lakers and won by ten points. Stephenson rather not do it again, but when you join the Lakers, as he did as an unrestricted free agent in July, it’s almost guaranteed. They’ll host the Golden State Warriors at 8:00 in the marquee matchup of the day.

“I didn’t really like it because I ain’t really get to celebrate with my kids on Christmas,” Stephenson shared. “It was fun, but I rather not play on Christmas.”

See Also: Stephenson opens up on his time in Indiana, his fresh mindset, and playing alongside LeBron

The Pacers, who went 48-34 last season, wildly exceeded pre-season expectations. Oladipo, who emerged as an All-Star and All-NBA guard, helped the franchise recapture the fan base and this city. They appeared on national television just once during the 2017-18 season, for Paul George’s return to Indy.

By game three of summer league last month in Las Vegas, the Summer Pacers appeared on national TV twice as much as the 2017-18 Pacers. The full schedule will be released on Friday, Aug. 10th and you can expect them to be showcased more than once. The Boston Celtics are the prohibitive favorites in the Eastern Conference, followed by the Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors, and Pacers.

“I’ll be watching [on Christmas Day]. Unfortunately,” Collison added. “But not for long. With the way we’re playing, I could see us have a (Christmas Day) game soon.”

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