Christmas Can't Come Soon Enough
He’s soared above the rim, hit game-changing threes and crisscrossed the continent through the Raptors’ first 30 games of the season, but when it comes to the holidays, Terence Davis Jr. is just like the rest of us.
The Raps’ rookie shooting guard was sitting in his locker stall with Christmas just a few days away and was still finalizing his holiday plans. He was juggling his job with trying to get family up to Toronto from Mississippi and was hoping for a day off to take care of some last-minute shopping. And in one final grounding dose of reality, Davis has been dealing with a cold for the last week.
Still, the 22-year-old is excited. This is his first Christmas as a NBA player. That he and his teammates get the Christmas ball rolling on Wednesday, hosting the Boston Celtics at noon ET -- the first of five Christmas Day games -- just adds to the excitement.
“It’ll be a special holiday,” Davis said. “It’ll be my first time instead of watching the game actually being in one. That’s amazing. I’m looking forward to it.”
Davis will always remember 2019 as the year that he had his greatest basketball wishes fulfilled. It started with the heartbreak of not hearing his name called at the NBA Draft, only to sign a two-year deal with the Raptors on July 11. Injuries opened the door for him early in the season and he’s happily stepped into the opportunities presented to him. In almost 16 minutes a game, Davis is averaging 6.4 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists.
“As a kid dreaming about the NBA, you always want to get to this stage and be able to help your family out. That’s what drove me to where I am now,” he said.
“Just to be a part of (a Christmas Day game) is a dream come true.”
He said that he needed to get a day in for shopping but already had all of the gifts he wanted to buy in mind.
“Spread the love,” he said, running through nieces, nephews and his parents as just a few of the people he was thinking of.
“Bring a light into their lives. They have been great at bringing me up and helping me get into this place I’m in now. It’ll be special.”
The Raptors have always been a mix of players from varying basketball backgrounds, but the majority of the locker room has one thing in common. Very few of them have played in a Christmas Day game.
Serge Ibaka leads the way. When he steps onto the Scotiabank Arena court on Dec. 25, it will be his seventh time playing on Christmas Day. Pat McCaw, having spent the past two seasons with the Golden State Warriors, is the only other player on the team with that experience.
“I’m a blessed man,” Ibaka said, having just learned he’d played that many Christmas Day games. He’s tried to bring family to these games whenever possible over the years. He’ll have his father and his daughter at the game on Wednesday. He remembers the holiday-themed jerseys the Thunder wore in his first Christmas appearance and how it felt like a playoff game when they got on the court
“It’s an honour. Not every team plays on Christmas Day. So you have to be a good team. A lot of people will be watching,” Ibaka said.
Raptors’ centre Chris Boucher will be bringing his family in from Montreal for the game. As a Canadian player, he knows what the Raptors hosting their first-ever Christmas Day game means to fans of the team. He’s excited for the energy in the building on Wednesday.
“They’ve been waiting for that for a long time,” he said. “I think it’ll be exciting, playing the Celtics.
“It’ll feel like a playoff game. A lot of people will be there and it’s an early game, so why not watch the game and then go home and have festivities?”
Wednesday marks the first time a Christmas Day game will be played in Toronto, but it’s the second time ever that the team has played on Christmas Day. In 2001, the Raptors fell to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, 102-94. They avenged that loss four months later, beating the Knicks 3-2 in a best-of-five series in the first round of the playoffs.