Durant is why Nets aren’t playing on Xmas Day

    The Nets are conspicuously absent from Sunday’s schedule. Sure, the players are going to enjoy some time off and being able to spend the holiday with their families. But don’t think they wouldn’t enjoy the honour of playing in front of a national — or international — Christmas Day audience even more.“It’s special still to play on Christmas,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn told The Post. “I mean, I am going to love being off and watching the games, but if I had a choice, we’d be playing. … You want to play on Christmas. Everybody’s watching 10 teams, and you want to be one of those teams.”The Nets will be flying instead of playing.The Nets beat the 2021 champion Bucks convincingly, 118-100, on Friday night at Barclays Center, and will play Monday night in Cleveland against the fast-rising Cavaliers.But Sunday? Despite all their star power — Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons — the Nets won’t be one of those 10 teams playing.And ironically, it’s as much because of their biggest star as it is despite him.“Yeah, I’m probably responsible for us not planning on Christmas with what went on this summer,” Durant acknowledged this week. “But hey, it is what it is. We play on the 26th, that’s close enough.”“What went on” was a euphemism for Durant’s trade request that overshadowed the Las Vegas Summer League, grinded league transactions to a halt and threatened to rip apart the championship contender that general manager Sean Marks has assiduously built in Brooklyn. When a deal failed to materialise, Durant then tried to get Marks and then-coach Steve Nash fired.Considering that upheaval, along with Irving’s contract standoff and the uncertainty surrounding Simmons’ mental health and surgically repaired back, it’s easy to see why NBA schedule makers passed on putting the Nets on Christmas Day. They couldn’t have foreseen the turnaround that’s taken place.Durant: Knicks-Nets would’ve had punchNo team in the NBA has been hotter than the Nets, who have reeled off 12 wins in their past 13 games — including a winning streak that’s reached a league-best eight games — to ascend to fourth in the Eastern Conference.With their Big 3, the Nets fit the profile of a team that normally would be playing on Christmas. And one of those stars thinks he knows what would have been the perfect holiday matchup.“Knicks-Nets would’ve been a great Christmas Day matchup,” Durant said. “Especially with how the Knicks are playing and the way we’re playing right now, I feel like that would be the perfect matchup on Christmas. Hopefully, we get that going forward.”The Knicks are one of three teams the Nets have beaten on Christmas (the Celtics and the Lakers last year are the others). They have played a dozen times on Dec. 25 — 11 times in the NBA and once in the old ABA — and have a 6-6 record.How the Nets are spending their holidaysThis year, instead of adding to that total, they’ll get Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off from practising or playing, able to relax and enjoy the holidays with their families.“Just be with my girl, man, my girl and my dogs,” Simmons told The Post. “That’s about it. No real plans.”The 26-year-old hails from Australia, and he’s half a world away from the rest of his family. After attending high school and college in the U.S. — Montverde Academy in Florida and LSU — he’s become accustomed to not seeing them on Christmas. It’s a trade-off he’ll gladly make, but he’d prefer to be playing Sunday.“I mean, I love my job, so [being away from family] comes with it,” Simmons told The Post. “And the times you get to play on Christmas Day, those are [huge]. When I was growing up, I used to watch the Christmas Day games, so it’s a lot of fun.”Veteran guard Patty Mills, another Aussie, said he doesn’t have anything extravagant planned. Neither does backup point guard Edmond Sumner.“But our [Sunday night] flight is late, so I get to chill at the crib,” Sumner told the Post. “It’ll be good just to be able to relax. I’m not going to be able to see my [extended] family, but just chill with the wife.”For some, family will come to them.Joe Harris is from Washington state, but said his fiancee’s parents will fly up from Florida.Nic Claxton — who was born and raised in Greenville, S.C., and starred at the University of Georgia — also has family coming in to visit, his parents and sister flying up from down South.“I’m just going to spend some time with them,” Claxton told The Post, “probably have some good home cooked meals and just enjoy the company.”Markieff Morris, who grew up in North Philadelphia, got a Christmas gift from the schedule makers. His twin brother Marcus — seven minutes younger — plays on the other coast for the Clippers, who played Friday night against the 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. That allowed Morris to take a quick jaunt down the New Jersey Turnpike and both siblings to spend the holiday weekend at their mother’s house.One Net for whom Christmas isn’t a big deal is forward Yuta Watanabe, a native of Kagawa, Japan. In his tradition, New Year’s Eve through Jan. 2 is much more significant.“The biggest holiday in Japan is New Year,” Watanabe told The Post. “We do have Christmas, but it’s not as big. Christmas is not like a family thing in Japan. It’s more for couples. And then New Year’s is for family, [so] that’s a lot different.“…I’ve been here for like 10 years now. That means I’ve missed the last 10 years [of] New Year’s family gatherings, so I missed that. … But I always, always FaceTime them. Talk to grandma, uncle, my cousins, obviously parents. So I’m going to do it this year, too.”– New York Post

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