This season’s NBA Christmas Day games features New York Knicks vs Milwaukee Bucks, Houston Rockets vs Oklahoma City Thunder, Boston Celtics vs the Philadelphia 76ers and Golden State Warriors vs Los Angeles Lakers. Six players from these teams shared their views on what that means for them.
Q: This is your second season with the Celtics. How do you feel like you’re progressing?
A: Pretty good. I’m happy to be here, just enjoying the journey and just want to keep doing what I’m doing, play with a lot of energy and try to be the best on the court.
Q: You’ve been playing a lot in Maine, do you feel like that’s helped you develop different parts of your game?
A: This year was different. I went there to get some minutes just to get ready for the next game and got there, tried to get some points, get some rebounds and tried to really develop my game, coming to try and play my best.
Q: Do you have any personal goals? Would you like to try and improve your minutes and stay here longer?
A: I just want to try and be the best when I’m on the court, try to help the team win some games and obviously go to the playoffs.
Q: You played in the Jeep Elite league in France, do you still follow that league?
A: I’ve got some friends that play in that league over there, so I still follow them a little bit.
Q: Do you watch your friends play?
A: I can’t really watch the games because of the time they play, it’s during the day and the timing is different.
Q: You guys are going to be playing on Christmas Day, how important is that to you and the fans?
A: It’s important. A lot of the guys are going to come with their family because it’s like their own little Christmas. They’re going to come in here and have their favorite team play a game against a great team. It’s also nice for the fans to watch a game at Christmas so we’re just going to try and be our best, be the best on the court and try to win the game.
Q: Do you have any family that will be here for Christmas?
A: For sure. I have a lot of family that will be here and my closest friends will be here too.
Q: They’re coming from overseas?
A: Yeah, they’re going to be in Boston for the whole Christmas.
Q: Do you enjoy playing on Christmas day? Is the atmosphere different to regular season games?
“Of course. It’s a blessing to play on Christmas day, especially if you’re playing in New York. It’s definitely a blessing and I’ve been part of really big organizations like OKC and the Knicks. Not everybody gets to play on Christmas day. That’s definitely a special game.”
Q: You met former Newcastle united striker Alan Shearer earlier this month, are you a big football fan? Was he a player you admired when you were younger?
“I am actually a huge soccer fan. I used to watch soccer all the time growing up and obviously he was one of the biggest soccer names out there. It was awesome to meet him, he was a great guy. Although Liverpool are my favourite Premier League team.”
Q: How does it feel to be playing on Christmas Day again? Are Christmas Day games more special for the players and for the fans?
“I grew up watching Christmas games. I just know it’ll be special for me because my family will all be together, watching the game and getting to see me possibly play so it’s a blessing just to be here, just to be with the Knicks, playing in the NBA. It’s like a traditional Christmas game for them.”
Q: Do you celebrate Christmas before or after the game?
“Last year was the first I actually played on Christmas. I was with my girl. We didn’t really open presents or anything like that. We went out to eat after the game. This year we’ll probably do the same. I’ve already given my family their gifts as I’m not going to be able to be there with them [in Houston].”
Q: Is there a particular present you’ve asked for this Christmas?
“Not really, it’s the season of giving. Nowadays I’m Santa.”
Q: What do you like best about Christmas in the States?
“Just the family aspect, the whole thing with giving back to everyone. Everybody is together. It’s fun. Making people’s days. Making people’s lives. Being able to play on Christmas is a blessing. That’s a gift to myself, just to be able to play.”
Q: What are your goals for the rest of the season?
“Just keep improving. Try to win games and getting better as we go. But for me personally, just getting better every day. And I’ll become a better player and a better person.”
Q: How tough do you think the Bucks will be to play against?
“That’s a good team. They got a lot of pieces, a lot of guys that are a top contender in the East. But I think if we just come out and compete, we’ll match up with them fine.”
Q: What will you have to do to lock down Giannis?
“That’s a tough cover. He can hit shots. He’s a superstar, an All-Star for a reason. You can only contain him. You can’t stop him. With him the Bucks have a chance of getting to the finals”
Q: How does it feel to work at Christmas?
Theis: Playing throughout the whole season is something new for me, but fortunately we [German people] celebrate Christmas on the evening of the 24th December and when we celebrate Christmas, we are at home. Nice and cozy with gifts, eating together with my family.
Then on the 25th … For me it’s something special – we have the privilege to play a Christmas Day Game. We got special games this year with the first game on opening night and now with Christmas against Philadelphia, it’s been some time since we played them. Also a bit of revenge for them of last season‘s playoffs – I think that it will be a good game and for us it’s also an honour to play a Christmas Day game.
Q: Who will come for Christmas? Is it you, your wife and daughter or is also family from Germany?
Theis: My mother in law comes over for Christmas and New Year and then we get visitors. My part of the family comes usually towards the end of the season around March / April during school holidays and when the holidays are easier to plan.
Q: American Christmas or German Christmas?
Theis: I’d say German. We are planning a cozy meal with raclette and unpacking gifts on the night of the 24th, so I would say that this is still “our German Christmas”.
Q: Is the German “Weihnachtsmann” coming or Santa Claus?
Theis: My daughter knows both. By going to school here every day for a few hours and speaking both languages. But when we celebrate with her on the 24th, the Weihnachtsmann is coming. She also has the Adventskalender [Advent Calendar] as we know it in Germany, which goes over 24 days. So I think she’s looking forward to it.
My daughter will turn three in March so I have to think about whether I can dress up and get a [Santa Claus] costume. But she might be intimidated if there is a more than 2-meter tall Santa Claus. I might have to find someone who is relatively small.
Q: Is the family coming to the game on Christmas Day?
Theis: Yes, all the family will come. Firstly because this is an early game and my daughter can come, too. She always goes to bed around 7pm. Most of the time we play at 7/7:30pm at home and that’s too late. Then she rarely comes, because she is still too young. But I think she will come along on Christmas and watch the game.
Q: What from Germany do you miss most about Christmas?
Theis: I think the fact that you are sitting together with friends and with your family as I have in recent years when we were in Bamberg … either family was visiting or we celebrated with the Harris family, for example. He (Elias Harris, German Basketball National Team Player) is my best buddy. I think that’s what you miss most.
Q: No Christmas markets? Boston is ideal for this. When you go to Faneuil Hall, I always think, why do they not have a Christmas market there?
Theis: Yes, that’s right. Maybe also the mulled wine (“Glühwein”) that you could drink outside. I just think in general – it’s just different. And if you know it as we know it, you miss that a bit. Too bad that you do not have a few days off that you could possibly get on the plane, fly home for two days, celebrate and come back here.
Q: What do you like most about Christmas in America?
Theis: The food is always good. Just as with Thanksgiving, there is always celebration and eating; the families come together. Just like at Christmas, too. You get together with family or with friends and there is always so much food. In the end this is very similar to our Christmas in Germany, except maybe half a day later in the morning.
Q: How is this in the team? Is there a certain Christmas tradition or a Christmas party?
Theis:What we always do is that we have a Christmas party on a Saturday for homeless children. They always get backpacks from us as a team and the organization with all sorts of stuff in it.
We’re on an away trip after the Christmas Game for six days. Maybe we can manage a New Year celebration as a team in San Antonio. But I think everyone will spend Christmas with their family.
Q: What do you wish to get from the Santa Claus?
Theis: For me personally, that I hopefully get healthy and fit through the season and that we as a team are just as successful as possible.
Q: Who wins the Christmas Game?
Theis: The Boston Celtics
Q: How much are you looking forward to playing on Christmas Day?
Schröder: I’ve never played on Christmas Day and playing against such a big team, as the Rockets, will be a great experience. Playing in front of almost everyone watching at home will be huge. It’s a big event for us and we just want to come out and be ready to win the game.
Q: Was playing on a big stage like the Christmas Day games one of the reasons you were excited about coming to Oklahoma City?
Schröder: This team, over the last 11 years, have done a great job going out there and competing, and the fans are amazing. That’s the reason why I chose this city. It’s a perfect fit for me here and competing alongside these guys week in week out is making me better.
Q: How big is the Christmas game for the Thunder and for you personally?
Luwawu-Cabarrot: It’s a great opportunity to play in front of the fans at Christmas. Christmas means a lot to everybody, I played with Philly on Christmas Day before and it was unbelievable. It was such a good atmosphere and the crowd responded well so it’s always good to play.
Q: How is it different just from any other regular season game?
Luwawu-Cabarrot: It’s Christmas so it makes a big difference – it’s so exciting. The people who are going to watch the games are excited that it’s Christmas so it adds to the atmosphere.
Q: How would you describe how this season is going for you so far?
Luwawu-Cabarrot: The season has been good, we’ve been playing well as a team we have a great group. We just enjoy playing with each other and it’s great to learn from everybody like that. It’s the best way to learn and the best way to grow.
Q: Do you still keep up to date with members of Antibes and the team?
Luwawu-Cabarrot: Yes. I’m still in touch with some of the players who I played with there. Actually one of my guys [Isaia Cordinier] that I played in the junior sides with got drafted by the Atlanta Hawks 44th pick. He got picked in the same year as me but he stayed in Europe so I’m trying to see what he’s doing every week and keep tracking his game. I try to talk to him and just be like a big brother to him and give him some advice on the way to play, be aggressive and to keep your head up.
Q: Do you see yourself taking up the big brother role for the younger players coming over from France?
Luwawu-Cabarrot: Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I try to give good advice when the guys come over and ask questions. If you’ve had the experience you should advise the younger players. I’ve been here for two years already so I’ve seen a lot, I’ve been through every potential position in the team so I know how it is and it’s good to have the guys coming up and asking questions.
Catch four live NBA games this Christmas Day, including Boston Celtics vs Philadelphia 76ers at 10:30pm on Sky Sports Arena. The NBA Christmas Day games are available to watch on Sky Sports on Dec. 25 starting from 5pm in the UK.