Christmas games can be tough on those involved

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MIAMI (AP) - Phil Jackson and LeBron James agree: Christmas Day games are not the ideal holiday gift.

A day after the Lakers' coach reiterated his longtime stance against NBA games on Dec. 25, James and other members of the Miami Heat said they also wish they could be with their families on Christmas.

Instead, the Lakers and Heat will spend the holiday together, playing in Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon.

“If you ask any player in the league, we’d rather be home with our families,” James said. “I think the people that even set the games up would rather be home with their family during this day. It’s not just a regular holiday. It’s definitely one of those days that you wish you could wake up in the morning with the kids and open up presents.”

James‘ two children will do their gift-unwrapping on Christmas Eve this year.

Jackson is the son of two Christian ministers, and he famously wrote a book on his spiritual growth related to basketball. The Lakers have been picked for a Christmas game annually since 1999.

“I don’t think anybody should play on Christmas Day,” Jackson said Tuesday night before the Lakers lost at home to Milwaukee. “I don’t understand it.”

Keeping with the theme from recent years, the NBA went with five games again on Christmas. Chicago is at New York to open the quintupleheader, Boston plays next at Orlando, then after the Lakers host the Heat it’ll be Denver at Oklahoma City and Portland at Golden State in the nightcap.

Christmas games are a tradition nearly as old as the league itself.

So, too, is complaining about them.

“I actually feel sorry for people who have nothing to do on Christmas Day other than watch an NBA game,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said last year.

And those words drew the Magic what Van Gundy said Wednesday was a “hefty” fine a year ago. He even wondered if Jackson would be fined for what he said in Los Angeles the previous night.

So this year, he took caution when asked about playing on the holiday.

“I think you just have to accept it,” Van Gundy said. “It’s gone from the one game to the two games to the five games last year. It’s part of the league. I had my say last year, I’m not going to have my say again. My owner paid for my comments last year, and he’s not going to do that again.”

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra says understands the arguments for and against playing on Christmas.

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