By Rich Levine
Its been three-and-a-half seasons now since the Celtics regained their NBA relevancy, and in that time theyve birthed more rivalries than Shaq has nicknames.
There's the Lakers (of course), the Pistons, Hawks, Magic, Cavs, Bulls, Bucks, Knicks and Heat, just to name a ton. Basically, since the day KG made the move from Minnesota, half the league has at one point considered themselves Celtic rivals. Its apparently the cool thing to do. Or maybe they just bring that out in people. Or maybe . . . I dont know.
But I do know that when making out that excessive list, you cant include the Spurs and thats disappointing, if not completely understandable.
On one hand, what are you going to do?
They play in different conferences. They only play twice a year, and even then, youre lucky if theres one game where both are at full strength. When you talk about the Celtics and Spurs, you talk about the NBAs Uta Pippigs (but far more sanitary); two teams who couldnt be more cognizant of the fact its a marathon, not a sprint. And while they constantly downplay the significance of the regular season, thats the only time they ever play. They make it hard to really get excited. Two teams pacing themselves against each other . . . lets get it!
For last few seasons, its felt like the Spurs were competing in some parallel NBA universe. Theyve been a team Boston fans have respected from afar, but never really feared. Regardless of their championship pedigree, and consistent success, the Spurs were never the team the city of Boston envisioned at the end of the road. It was never, Man, I hope they have enough to beat the Spurs this year. Weve kind of had tunnel vision in that respect, so in turn, CelticsSpurs never took on that extra special meaning; or at least not to the level of most teams of their caliber.
San Antonio and Cs have been like two wily, old great white sharks patrolling the same ocean. Their paths have crossed a few times. On occasion, theyve maybe even bumped heads. But theyve never faced off when theyre both starving for a meal as a seal swims by. As a result, their games sometimes lack that extra edge; they almost give off the vibe of a friendly between two esteemed European soccer clubs. More of an NBA exhibition. A showcase of two of the leagues more refined and presentable teams. The kind of game that shows up on national Sunday afternoon broadcasts. Sundays are PG-13 at best. Rivalries arent built on Sunday afternoons. And this one never was.
CelticsSpurs? Yeah, I get it. It makes complete sense.
But still, against all odds as opposed to the flash-in-the-pan Hawks, Bucks and Knicks rivalries that have haunted this team this is a rivalry that would be worth rooting for.
Between Garnett and Duncan, Rondo and Parker, the age and the defense, the PopovichRivers chess match and the recent history that would be at stake, this would an NBA Finals worth rooting for. And all things considered with the way each team has played, combined with the problems in L.A., the unproven big-game capabilities of Miami, the changing of the guard in Orlando, Caron Butler going down in Dallas and the Thunder still being a year away this really could be the year that it happens. The year Celtics vs. Spurs finally means something.
(Obviously, this whole columnseason rides on how Kevin Garnett comes back from his muscle strain. But for the sake of conversation lets just assume KG is 100 percent in the playoffs)
Of course, this seasons still very young, and no one knows that more than the Celtics and Spurs. But tonights game could very well be the first step in a season long collision course for these wiley, old great whites and Boston needs to be prepared.
If the Celtics and San Antonio are going to take this to the next level, so are the fans.
With that, and a little research, I rounded up some heckleworthy information on Los Spurs; a cheat sheet to cheap shots, if you will.
Please use with caution and please dont take them too seriously.
Reason to hate: Has done more with zero ACLs than youll ever do with two.
Embarrassing truth: Actually scored a basket for the Celtics last season.
How to get him: Every time he grabs a rebound, offensive or defense, start screaming, Go back up with it! At some point, hell get confused.
Reason to hate: Set the Celtics organization back 10 years.
Embarrassing truth: Has admitted to an intense fear of sharks
How to get him: Jerry Tarkanian costume.
Reason to hate: Will make your heart ache for Scal; was once tossed from a game for an altercation with poor, defenseless Kevin Garnett.
Embarrassing truth: He has a legendary obsession with sandwiches. Check out this blog
How to Heckle: Make the Garden bread free. Pitas, wraps and pockets only. To force Bonner to perform in a stadium void of sandwiches is to ask the impossible.
Reason to hate: The FLOP
Embarrassing truth: Dead ringer for a bald Balki Bartokomous
How to get him: Invite your coosin Larry to the game. Also, be ready with a, Get off the floor, Balki! Last flight to Mypos leaves at 10! after he flops.
Reason to hate: Colts fan!
Embarrassing truth: Found Internet fame last season when someone leaked naked photos hed taken of himself with camera phone.
How to get him: Odens filled more megabytes! Odens filled more megabytes!
Reason to hate: The NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs 2002 and 2003
Embarrassing truth: Famously canceled his wedding, over e-mail, a week before the date
How to get him: Right before hes about to take a foul shout, lay a glass underneath some napkins and stomp on it. Lechaim! (Jeffersons Jewish, right?)
Reason to hate: Spent three years married to Eva Longoria
Embarassing truth: Screwed things up with Eva Longoria
How to get him: Everyone sitting behind the basket throws on a Rays jersey, You should try Evvvvaaan . . . You should try Evvvvaaan . . .
And the Celtics should try winning. And thankfully, unlike last year, you can be 100 percent sure that they will. And if these two ageless contenders can keep their eyes on the prize and their bodies in one piece for the next few months, we may have a rivalry on our hands.
Thank God, too, because it's been at least 10 minutes since the C's had a new one.