Christmas games special, exciting for Durant
Last season, Kevin Durant flashed his All-Star form with 44 points on ‘The Lord's Day' as the Thunder defeated the Denver Nuggets.
When the NBA released its original 2011-12 regular-season schedule last summer, Thunder All-Star Kevin Durant was not happy.
The Oklahoma City Thunder would not be playing on Christmas Day.
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When the league finalized its abbreviated schedule after a 149-day lockout, not only was the Thunder granted another Christmas Day game, OKC would host for the second straight year, facing the Orlando Magic at 7 p.m. on ESPN.
“The Lord's Day,” Durant said, flashing a smile, “and to play basketball on that day is pretty special.”
Durant certainly was pretty special last year on Christmas Day, scoring 44 points in a 114-106 victory over the Denver Nuggets inside the Ford Center, which this year became Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Durant's family was on hand to enjoy the show.
“Everybody was here,” Durant said. “It was the first time my little cousins came, plus my mom, my grandmom, my dad were all here. It was a special time for me.
“If I had 20 points and a loss, I still would have had a great day, because it was Christmas and my family was there supporting me. It was kind of like icing on the cake to have won and had 44 points. Regardless, I was just blessed to have had an opportunity to play on Christmas.”
Durant isn't alone in his affection for playing on this day.
“I don't want any gifts,” Thunder guard James Harden said. “I'm just happy the NBA's back and that we're playing and I'm around this good group of guys.”
This will be the fourth straight year his team has played on Christmas for Thunder center Kendrick Perkins, who was obtained last February in a trade with the Boston Celtics.
“When you're one of the teams picked to play on Christmas Day, I think you should take it as being an honor,” Perkins said. “It's a nod that you're on one of the elite teams.”
Dec. 25 showcase
Tumultuous negotiations for the league's new collective bargaining agreement were expedited during Thanksgiving weekend last month so the season could commence Dec. 25.
Christmas has become an NBA showcase and being included on that day's schedule is a sign of respect. Five games will be played today and each will be aired on national television.
Rarely, if ever, has an NBA franchise been included on the Christmas Day schedule so quickly after relocating, but such has been the case for the Thunder, which arrived from Seattle in July 2008.