Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic will make his Christmas Day debut against the world champion Los Angeles Lakers as part of a blockbuster slate of tentative holiday games, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The NBA is tentatively scheduled to open its 2020-21 season on Dec. 22. But Christmas Day will again feature the NBA’s marquee games to get the season jump-started.
In addition to Doncic playing for the first time on Christmas against LeBron James and the defending champs in Los Angeles (8 p.m. ET), Zion Williamson is slated to make his Christmas debut when the New Orleans Pelicans kick off the star-powered holiday games with a visit to Miami to play the reigning Eastern Conference champion Heat (noon ET). The Pelicans played on Christmas last year, but an injured Williamson missed that contest against Denver.
After that game, Stephen Curry makes his return to the Christmas stage when the Golden State Warriors visit Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks (2:30 p.m. ET). Curry missed almost all of last season following hand surgery. While he will have to play this season without teammate Klay Thompson (out for the season after Achilles surgery), Curry will have his new big man, second overall pick James Wiseman, to help battle Antetokounmpo, the two-time MVP.
The Nets’ star tandem of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving also is in line to make its Christmas Day debut when Brooklyn faces the Boston Celtics (5 p.m. ET). The Nets enter the season with massive expectations with Durant and Irving finally playing together while being led by rookie head coach Steve Nash. Durant sat out all of last season while recovering from a ruptured right Achilles suffered in the 2019 NBA Finals. It will be Irving’s first game back to Boston since joining the Nets in free agency in July 2019.
The NBA certainly will be hoping that Doncic and James will face each other in the showcase game of the day, but James, 35, will be just over 10 weeks removed from helping the Lakers win the championship in Game 6 of the Finals over the Heat on Oct. 11. The Lakers, who added Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell and Dennis Schroder in free agency, could opt to ease James back into the season.
The LA Clippers will close out the night by traveling to Denver to face the Nuggets (10:30 p.m. ET). When those two teams last faced each other in the bubble in Orlando, Florida, in September, the Nuggets shocked the Clippers by erasing a 3-1 series deficit and beating the popular pick to win it all in the second round of the playoffs. That stunning collapse led Clippers owner Steve Ballmer to part ways with coach Doc Rivers and replace him with Ty Lue. Lue and a new coaching staff hope to unlock the Clippers’ chemistry and incorporate free-agent addition Serge Ibaka alongside Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Ibaka and Leonard won a championship together in Toronto in 2019.
Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic will look to take the next step and compete for a championship after leading the Nuggets to the Western Conference finals.