Sydney Kings chairman Paul Smith has lit the fuse ahead of the Christmas clash with Illawarra, saying the reigning NBL champions will "spank" the Hawks and "send them home sad".
But Sydney's streak of five-figure home crowd numbers is set to come to an end on Christmas Day, with only the lower section of Qudos Bank Arena to be opened for fans.
Drawing inspiration from the NBA, the Kings conceived of and hosted last year's inaugural Christmas Day game against Melbourne United, believed to be a first of its kind for Australian professional sport.
The NBL has developed the concept into a double-header for 2023, with the Tasmania JackJumpers to face South East Melbourne in Hobart before the Kings meet the Hawks.
The Hawks' Christmas debut is poised to be the most competitive match between the two intra-state rivals since Brian Goorjian left Illawarra at the end of the 2021/22 season.
Illawarra are on an eight-game losing streak against the Kings but more recently, have won three of four games under new interim coach Justin Tatum.
Smith, co-owner of the Kings, has ruled out the possibility of sharing Christmas dinner with the resurgent Hawks on December 25.
"We tolerate the Hawks, they're the noisy neighbours," he said.
"We don't give them a lot of love, they don't need it. They don't like love, they love hate, that's what works best.
"There's only one thing to watch (on Christmas) and that's the NBL, Sydney Kings versus Illawarra Hawks as we spank them around and send them home sad. That's what we'll be doing."
The Kings drew 7000 fans to the first Christmas Day game, with 300,000 more watching from home, and later pointed to the fixture as the reason for an upswing in home attendances.
"I think what happened that night is a lot of families sat down to watch a game of basketball for the first time for a long time," Smith said.
"Ticket sales just exploded."
Three of the five most-attended regular season games last season were Kings home fixtures played in January.
As it stands, the Kings have drawn crowds of more than 10,000 to each of their last nine home games at Qudos Bank Arena, equalling the club's record set in 1992.
But the Kings will open only the lower seating bowl at Qudos Bank Arena on Christmas Day, cutting the stadium's capacity to 9,500.
The Kings had been told staffing the stadium to capacity on Christmas Day would be cost prohibitive, and would likely be overkill anyway, given between 8000 and 9000 fans are expected to attend.
"We'll have to put a little asterisk on that one," Smith said.
Dual championship-winning Kings player Angus Glover looked forward to facing former side the Hawks on Christmas Day, having played in last season's 101-80 win on Christmas.
"Obviously last year was a huge success and just seeing what it's going to be this year, is going to be awesome," he said.