ORLANDO, Fla. — Stan Van Gundy has a request for the NBA: no more Christmas games.
“I actually feel sorry for people who have nothing to do on Christmas Day other than watch an NBA game,” the Orlando Magic coach said.
The Magic were playing Boston on Friday, one of five NBA games on Christmas.
Van Gundy said he understands the high-priced TV contracts generate money for the league and it would be difficult to stop such games. He said at the very least he wishes the league had fewer games on the holidays.
The Magic play games on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day this season.
“I think we get a little carried away with ourselves with sports thinking we’re more important than everything else,” Van Gundy said before the game. “But that’s the way it is. There’s nothing more important than the NBA on Christmas Day.”
Van Gundy feels the day is best spent with family. He woke up early but managed to spend only about 15 minutes with his wife and four children. They went to church services the day before.
Van Gundy said he hadn’t even had a chance to open his family’s gifts before the tip-off at 2:30 p.m.
The only time he could recall watching a Christmas Day game was when his brother, Jeff, was coaching one of them. Van Gundy also said he doesn’t watch NFL games on Thanksgiving.
“Christmas to me, obviously basketball is very important to me, but there are some days of the year where it’s got to take a back seat to something,” he said.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers wasn’t quite as adamant, but he didn’t disagree.
Rivers said it’s tough for players to be away from family, but he realizes the league is not going to stop playing on the holidays. Rivers lives in the Orlando area and was able to wake up Christmas morning in his own bed.
He said he always watched Christmas Day games growing up because the league features the marquee teams.
“As a kid, you wanted to be on (Christmas),” Rivers said. “Then when you get to the league, you don’t want to be on any more. You’re like, ‘No, I changed my mind.’ But it’s going to happen, so why try to fight it? I tend to look at it as a reward.”
Van Gundy is doing what he can to give his team a break.
He gave players consecutive days off for the first time this season for the upcoming weekend. The Magic’s schedule — with travel days and all — hasn’t allowed for a break, he said.
“The league has been good to all of us in terms of what we get out of all these TV contracts and everything, so it would be a little disingenuous to complain too much,” Van Gundy said. “But if I had my way, we’d take a five-day break at Christmas. I mean it.”
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