BOSTON (CBS) – Most people think of Christmas as an opportunity to spend time with their family and friends.
For Gerald Wallace and the rest of the Boston Celtics this year, a few days off around Christmas is a rare surprise, rather than a yearly tradition.
“I haven’t been home for Christmas since my senior year of high school [in 2000],” the 13-year NBA veteran told a surprised group of reporters earlier this week.
This year, Wallace will be able to put an end to that streak though, as the Celtics will not play on Christmas day for the first time since 2008. Instead, the Celtics are enjoying a five-day respite, the team’s longest of the season, before returning to action against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday afternoon.
With Brad Stevens giving the Celtics three full days off from practice, before returning for one on the 26th, it will give the entire Celtics organization a time to catch their breath and reflect on the opportunity they have in the NBA.
“To me, [Christmas is] like any other time, to sit back and reflect on how fortunate we are and how lucky we are to do what we do and chance to compete, and coach, and play together, to me it’s another season and a reason to be thankful. I certainly would love for the Celtics to be playing on Christmas Day, but I don’t think anybody in this building is going to mind being with their family and taking the day for the real reason of why we’re doing it and spending time together,” Stevens said.
Celtic players, like Wallace, will take advantage of the break to head home and spend quality time with their families.
“Yeah I am [looking forward to it],” Wallace said earlier this week of heading home to Alabama. “It’s going to be exciting. I haven’t been home in awhile so it’s good to see family and friends around the holidays, spend time with my kids and everything. It will be enjoyable.”
Courtney Lee is another Celtic who will relish the chance to take in Christmas with loved ones.
“I haven’t spent Christmas with my family in the last eight years,” Lee noted.
Despite the less than ideal schedule, Lee kept a good perspective about missing out on spending time during the holiday season with those he cares about most.
“It’s tough,” Lee explained, “But as you get older, you start to understand that everybody has jobs they have to do. Part of my job is playing on Christmas or practicing on Christmas. That just comes with the territory. It’ll be good to go back and see them.”
Despite the extended time off, Lee will still be keeping busy during his off days.
“I’ll still go to the gym in the morning. I probably won’t beat the younger kids up in the morning, since they’ll be exciting about getting gifts, but I’ll probably beat everyone else up, going to the gym and try to get an hour or two shooting and conditioning. Nothing too crazy, I’m still going to enjoy my break, but I’m going to work out,” the shooting guard said.
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With the Celtics in the midst of a three-game losing streak, basketball will likely weight heavily on the minds of most Celtics players during the respite. Stevens, for one, isn’t sure how his team will respond to the lengthy rest.
“I’ll tell you after,” Stevens joked upon being asked about if he liked the five-day break between games. “We’re going to be off for three full days with more of the schedule that I’m used to than they are used to. And I’ve always found it to be a really refreshing, re-energizing period. It doesn’t mean that you won’t be without some kinks to come back from three days off and all being scattered around. I think practice, at least we know how to plan it, and this is kind of what I’ve been doing for the last 13 years with two- or three-day Christmas break.”
Given how brutal the Celtics upcoming schedule is in January with 17 games over 28 days, this roster is very much deserving of a Christmas present of some time off, and an opportunity to enjoy the holiday season with friends in family during the upcoming days.