The Toronto Raptors are no strangers to being snubbed on Christmas Day.
The only team based outside of the United States hasn’t played a game on the 25th since 2001 when they faced the New York Knicks, and their co-franchise players can’t understand it anymore.
“It has gotten to the point where you just sigh and say, ‘Another year…’ That’s crazy,” DeMar DeRozan told Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. “I always wanted to say that I’m playing on Christmas.”
The Raptors (22-8) have won 11 of their past 12 games, have lost the fewest games of anyone in the Eastern Conference, and trail the Boston Celtics for first place because they’ve played five less games.
This is no fluke either. The Raptors have a 204-124 (.622) record over the past four seasons and contrary to seasons past, are playing a much more exciting brand of basketball that is predicated on ball movement and three-point shooting.
“I have never played on Christmas,” Kyle Lowry said to The Undefeated. “I’ve always in my life wanted to play a Christmas game. There a lot of things I want to say as the reason I think ‘why not’ [for Toronto]. It’s never happened, but I’ve always had the opportunity to always be with my family on Christmas. It’s a blessing to be able to not play, but at the same you always want that one time you play on Christmas.”
While it’s entirely possible their previous isolation-heavy style of play may have played a factor, the biggest reason the Raptors don’t get national television love from the U.S. is because the NBA does not get a Nielsen rating for games played in Canada.
DeRozan is no stranger to being overlooked, taking issue with Sports Illustrated for ranking him the 46th-best player in the NBA before the 2016-17 season, and then 36th heading into this year. He takes those criticisms on the chin, though, and is having his best overall season yet with 24.7 points, five assists, and 4.4 rebounds.
— DeMar DeRozan (@DeMar_DeRozan) September 12, 2017
Lowry, after a slow start, has rounded into form with 16.1 points, 7.1 assists, and what would be a career-high 6.3 rebounds per game. Despite being consistently neglected, Lowry remains hopeful.
“You get the special shoes, the Christmas jerseys. That’s one I want to frame one day. Hopefully, I get the opportunity to do it.”