It was going to be a relaxing, joyous holiday for Marquese Chriss.
Home for Christmas, Chriss would be.
“I was just going to spend it with my family,” Chriss said. “I think that would have been the first Christmas at home since I was in high school.”
Instead, Chriss will be with the Mavericks in Salt Lake City for their Christmas night game against the Utah Jazz (9:30 p.m. tip, ESPN).
It’s OK, he said.
In fact, it’s better than OK as he is trying to show the Mavericks his 10-day contract for help during the COVID-19 breakout might need to become a full-blown contract.
For a guy who didn’t have an NBA job this season, this is like the best Christmas present of them all.
“It’s part of the business,” Chriss said. “I’m thankful to be playing again, whether it be on Christmas, New Year’s or Thanksgiving. This is our job and what we get paid to do. We’re going to go out and do it to the best of our ability.”
The Mavericks are playing on Christmas – typically one of the NBA’s marquee days of the regular season – for the second year in a row. Last year, they were drummed in Los Angeles by the Lakers.
They’re hoping it will be different this year, but the odds are stacked heavily against them. They still have seven players assigned to the COVID-19 health and safety protocols. They won’t play in Utah.
They are Luka Dončić, Tim Hardaway Jr., Maxi Kleber, Reggie Bullock, Trey Burke, JaQuori McLaughlin and Josh Green. Willie Cauley-Stein (personal) and Eugene Omoruyi (foot surgery) also are out.
Kristaps Porzingis is questionable. He’s missed two games with a sore toe on his right foot.
The Mavericks have done a great job of making sure they have enough available players to keep playing the games that are on the schedule. A lot of teams have not done so.
But signing emergency players under the COVID-19 hardship allowance is the right and sensible thing to do. The more games that are postponed now means a far more crowded schedule for those teams after the All-Star break.
So the Mavericks forge on.
And while they won’t have the star power that the league and its television partners crave for Christmas Day, it’s still a great day to be playing.
“One of the most special days to play in the NBA,” said Dwight Powell. “To be able to play on that day is an honor.”
Coach Jason Kidd couldn’t agree more. He joked about the league going back to just two games since most of the teams are fighting through some sort of COVID-19-related issues.
“But unfortunately, everybody is going to play,” he said. “That gives other guys an opportunity to play on Christmas that normally wouldn’t, so that will be a special time for them, too.
“You can’t take that for granted because a lot of times growing up we got to see only two games or one game. With COVID going on there’s a lot of guys playing that would normally not get the chance to play on Christmas.”
Like Chriss, who was the eighth overall pick in 2016 but has since fallen off the NBA radar. Because of that, he has no problem trading in a rare Christmas with the family for the opportunity to get back into the league.
In fact, he and Brandon Knight, Carlik Jones, Theo Pinson, George King and Charlie Brown Jr. all are hoping that they can catch the Mavericks’ eye. Or the eye of any other team during their 10-day contracts.
“You give them a fair opportunity to play,” Kidd said. “Unfortunately, they’re on a clock. It’s only 10 days.”
For these hopefuls, it will be enough time to show they belong in the NBA.
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