15 Players Who Will Need to Step Up on NBA’s Christmas Day Games
NBA Christmas Day Games: 15 Players That Must Step Up
Christmas Day is arguably the most important day of the NBA regular season. In terms of professional sports, the NBA has the monopoly on the day. It’s the day they premier new jerseys, the day that players create new footwear for, and the day that the NBA schedules their elite teams to face off in titanic matchups.
However, with the way the start of the 2013-14 NBA season has played out thus far, there have been several disappointing teams that many people expected to be powerhouses this year. A few of those teams will be playing on Christmas Day, which puts somewhat of a negative light on some of the matchups on the NBA’s biggest event of the regular season.
In case you are unaware, the matchups for Christmas Day are as follows: the Brooklyn Nets will take on the Chicago Bulls, the Oklahoma City Thunder will face the New York Knicks, the Miami Heat will throw down with the Los Angeles Lakers, the Houston Rockets will meet up with the San Antonio Spurs, and the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors will close out the day.
With teams like the Bulls, Nets, Knicks and Lakers all looking relatively unimpressive to start the season, we can only hope that the players that will be competing will rise to the occasion and make the NBA’s biggest day another exciting one. That could mean a player simply being entertaining or it could mean a player rising to the occasion to lift his team to a solid level. With that in mind, these 15 players need to step up on Christmas Day to make the NBA’s showcase all that it can be.
15. Joakim Noah
While Joakim Noah may not be the most exciting player, as he does a lot of the dirty work on the floor for the Bulls, he’s going to be vital to making this Bulls team successful without Derrick Rose. Against the Nets, Noah will need to be great defensively to try and contain Brook Lopez, but will also need to add in some of his patented energetic offense if he wants to make the Bulls look quality on Christmas.
14. Deron Williams
The Nets have looked much better since the return of Deron Williams from injury and Williams has also been solid individually. Williams has opened up the offense more with his scoring ability and facilitating as Brooklyn’s point guard and has, in a small sample-size, rejoined the league’s elite point guards. He will need to be every bit of elite against a tough Bulls defense to make that game worth watching.
13. Nick Young
If Nick Young doesn’t try another 360 reverse lay-up or something similar, Christmas is going to be ruined.
12. Kevin Durant
It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion at this point that Kevin Durant is going to be spectacular for the Thunder on a nightly basis. However, if the Knicks don’t step up on Christmas Day, we are going to need to see a monster game from KD, the kind of game we kind of take for granted because he’s been so consistently great as of late.
11. LeBron James
LeBron James rarely looks human on the basketball court. However, with his recent ankle injury, he might look a bit more human than we are possibly used to seeing him over the next week. For entertainment purposes, let’s hope that LeBron goes back to airing on the side of immortality.
10. Luol Deng
As is the case with Noah, the Bulls need players to step up with Rose still on the sideline and arguably no one is more capable on Chicago’s roster than Luol Deng. Deng is clearly the big-play guy on the roster now that Rose is out and, if the Bulls want people to not nod off during their game, he’s going to need to be special versus the Nets.
9. Blake Griffin
Yes, the Clippers will need Blake Griffin to assert himself and to be aggressive against the Warriors. Yes, Griffin will need to put up points and exploit his matchup with David Lee. More than anything, though, who doesn’t want to see Blake put someone on a poster on Christmas?
8. Klay Thompson
Klay Thompson has proven himself to be incredibly value to the Warriors this season. Not only has he proven to be a great perimeter defender, but he also has the tendency to go completely berserk with his outside shooting ability. Against a talented Clippers team, he’ll need to be in form for Golden State to find success.
7. Carmelo Anthony
With the way the Knicks have performed this season, save for a few anomalies, one of their only chances of keeping up with the Thunder will be if Carmelo Anthony goes unconscious offensively. With Melo, that’s always a possibility, but it’s pretty necessary for a struggling New York squad on Christmas Day.
6. James Harden
Individually, Christmas could be a sneaky important day for James Harden. With his Rockets facing the always dangerous Spurs, this presents Harden the opportunity to further prove himself against an elite team with all of the NBA-viewing eyes on him. He’ll obviously need to be good for Houston to knock off San Antonio, but a great performance will help launch him further into stardom.
5. Tony Parker
While Tim Duncan is hitting his stride as of late and Manu Ginobili has continued to fight off time and age, Tony Parker remains the lifeblood of the Spurs. Parker can change the game in so many ways and always seems to have several highlights throughout a contest. Here’s to hoping for an array of beautiful floaters on Christmas.
4. Russell Westbrook
While Durant is the better of the two Thunder stars, Russell Westbrook certainly can provide an equally as authoritative wow-factor whenever the ball is in his hands and he has a head of steam. If a chance of vicious dunks, aggressive drives, and so on aren’t enough, you can at least watch to see how you can make fun of Westbrook’s pre-game holiday attire.
3. Stephen Curry
The possibility of someone setting a record or doing something unbelievable on national television is always enticing. Stephen Curry presents that opportunity with his long-range shooting ability. Not only can he fill it up against just about anyone, but in a game that could be an offensive shootout, Curry needs to come out and be fantastic to deliver on high expectations.
2. J.R. Smith
J.R. Smith won the Sixth Man of the Year award last season. On Wednesday night he took 17 three-point attempts and made only five. Smith has certainly fallen from grace with the Knicks. If he wants to get things on track for him and his team, though, Christmas Day would be a fine place for him to start being an asset to his team again.
1. Kobe Bryant
I predicted for a while that Kobe Bryant would return on Christmas Day. I was wrong. Now that he’s back, though, perhaps we’ll get a view of vintage Kobe on Christmas. We all know Kobe loves the spotlight and facing the defending champions in the Heat certainly gives him that. We shall see if Bryant is still slowed in his return or if he can reach in the tank and deliver a performance similar to the Kobe of lore.