Eastern Notes: Heat, Embiid, Haslem, Mazzulla

The Heat will play on Christmas Day for the 14th time in franchise history when they match up with Philadelphia. Coach Erik Spoelstra says he doesn’t mind playing on the holiday and considers it a badge of honor, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald writes.

“I always mention it to our locker room that it is an honor to have that opportunity to play on Christmas,” he said. “The whole league doesn’t play on the holiday. There were several years in a row, where we were never considered for playing on Christmas. Then you go back before, you almost took it for granted that we were always going to play on Christmas. So I don’t want any of our guys to [take it for granted], and I know they don’t.”

We have more on the Eastern Conference:

  • Some of the intrigue in the matchup between the Sixers and Heat will be removed, due to Joel Embiid‘s absence. The Sixers’ superstar didn’t make the trip to Miami because of an ankle injury, ESPN’s Tim Bontemps reports. Embiid suffered the injury in Friday night’s win over the Raptors when he landed awkwardly trying to block a shot midway through the first quarter. He finished the game with 31 points and 10 rebounds. Philadelphia plays Wednesday in Orlando, and the team said the big man’s status for that game has yet to be determined.
  • The Heat will retire Udonis Haslem’s No. 40 jersey in a ceremony on January 19 during halftime of their game against the Hawks, the team announced in a press release. Haslem will become the sixth Heat player to have his jersey retired, joining Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway, Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.
  • Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla feels more at ease with his media responsibilities this season, he told Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe.  He struggled with that aspect of his job last season when he was thrust unexpectedly into the head coaching position. “I never want to be a distraction to the players and organization. So I’m learning how to be emotionally open,” he said. “I’m going to argue with you from time to time. It doesn’t mean I don’t like you or agree with what you’re saying. And, jokingly, I can’t understand why people give two [expletives] about me. I just don’t understand that. But they don’t care about me; they care about the role of the head coach of the Boston Celtics. So once I realized that I was like, ‘OK.’”
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