SALT LAKE CITY — Waking up on the morning of Christmas Day was special in Derrick Favors’ household growing up.
Of course he unwrapped gifts, then family gathered for home-cooked food and fellowship on Cleveland Avenue on Atlanta’s south side, before basketball brought everyone together.
“I always enjoyed watching them especially during Christmas time when the family would come over to the house and we would have everybody around and we would just turn the TV on and go from ABC to ESPN to TNT, those was fun times,” Favors recalled.
Now the Utah Jazz forward will have his first opportunity to join the holiday tradition with the Jazz set to host Portland Tuesday, Dec. 25 at 8:30 p.m. MT on ESPN.
For Utah, it’ll be its first Christmas game in over two decades. The NBA will feature four other games that day as the Jazz are playing on Christmas for the first time since 1997.
Like most of his teammates, Favors is experiencing the moment for the first time of his career. His plans for the day are simple ahead of tipoff.
“Just wake up, open presents with them, enjoy the time with them then get ready for the game,” Favors described. “Probably going to be running all around playing, making noises so it’ll be fun.”
The Jazz enter the Christmas matchup after winning two of their last three contests. Utah also experienced a 30-point victory against the Blazers on the road on Dec. 21, but returned home Saturday to drop a 107-106 game to Oklahoma City.
While the Jazz-Blazers contest will conclude the five-game Christmas schedule, Milwaukee will face the New York Knicks, the Houston Rockets will host OKC, Philadelphia will play Boston while the Los Angeles Lakers and defending champion Golden State Warriors are set to go at it.
This year will mark the 71st time that NBA games are played on the holiday and everyone around the organization certainly understands its significance.
“Christmas is a special day and the NBA Christmas Day games are for all of us, whether you’re playing or not, it’s part of the holiday,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said after Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma City. “Right now, I feel like we’re just going to take a deep breath and get a day off tomorrow… we’ve been playing a lot of games and hopefully rejuvenate a little bit, enjoy Christmas with our families and prepare and be ready to go.”
Jazz star Donovan Mitchell is looking to break out of his December slump with a solid Christmas performance like the players he idolized as a kid.
“My favorite one I would say, I obviously loved the Miami one in L.A. where (Dwyane Wade) and (LeBron James) put on a show, the (Derrick Rose) one in L.A. where he hit the game-winner,” Mitchell said. “I went to a Knicks one when I was younger, I don’t remember when but it was way back.”
Mitchell has averaged 18 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 3.1 turnovers over the 11-game stretch on 35.9 percent shooting and 28.8 percent from 3.
Mitchell was also featured in the NBA’s new Christmas spot aimed to capture the excitement of the holiday season through a light show of marquee players and games scheduled for the day.
Utah will be debuting its new Nike Earned Edition green uniforms versus Portland for the nationally televised game that was rewarded to teams that made the playoffs. This will mark the seventh time the Jazz have competed on Christmas with John Stockton and Karl Malone combining for 44 points to lead them to a 107-103 victory against the Houston Rockets in 1997.3 comments on this story
Overall, the Jazz are 4-2 on Dec. 25 and have won their last two contests as they now look to extend the streak to three straight, while giving some other young kids entertainment just as the legendary players did for Favors and his family in Atlanta.
“It’s a special day obviously because Christmas is special and you’ve got family in town,” said Jazz forward Jae Crowder. “The world is watching and it’s just some good basketball to be played and a good day to play it on with good energy, good vibes. It’s always fun to play on that day.”