Originally written on Boston's Bettah  |  Last updated 11/9/14
The Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat met up last year in the Eastern Conference Finals, and anything less would be a let down. In late September, when the Boston Celtics were arriving for training camp, Doc Rivers told the media something that we all sort of knew already when it came to their opinion on another team in the Eastern Conference. “I want them to hate (Miami). I want them to beat them.” As much as we knew this was the case given how physical and intense last year’s Eastern Conference Finals were, it still was odd to hear a head coach in the NBA use the word “hate” when describing his feelings about another team in the league. This simply does not happen in today’s NBA. Fans are more likely to see players exchange hugs and trade tips about the coolest clubs in town than a little post-whistle pushing and shoving. Blame the “Malice in the Palace” or maybe the AAU culture today, but good old-fashioned sports “hate” barely exists in today’s NBA. “I want them to hate (Miami). I want them to beat them.” Given the veterans on the roster of the Boston Celtics and who those veterans are, it is easy for them to hold onto these “old-school” NBA values. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett grew up watching a league where players talked trash, played physical and shook hands when the series was over. They (more Pierce than Garnett, but that is a story for another time) have passed these values to the younger members of the Boston Celtics. Rajon Rondo should have fir right into the “let’s be friends” NBA considering he played at Oak Hill Academy alongside fellow NBA star Josh Smith. Yet, Rondo fits in right alongside the Celtics veteran leadership. An old-pro mind trapped in a new school body. “I want them to hate (Miami). I want them to beat them.” The greatest rival the Celtics have ever had is the Los Angeles Lakers. The rivalry has been built on the fact that they have played 12 times in the NBA Finals and have featured some of the greatest players the league has ever seen. It’s amazing that they are the onlytrue rival of the Boston Celtics. The Philadelphia 76er’s have come and gone and the Knicks’ fans desperately want to be considered the Celtics’ rival, but it is the Lakers first and foremost. Where does this rivalry with the Miami Heat come from? It has more to do with Lebron James than anything. Pierce and James have always had a mutual dislike for each other going back to Cleveland and there is a sense that James has been the antithesis of the Boston Celtics. He represented the young “let’s be friends” and entitled NBA; They represented the tough, take no prisoners, old-school NBA. When Paul Pierce pulled up in Lebron James’ face in the final minutes of game five last year and told him “I have the balls to take that shot”, it seemed to be the defining moment of years of the Celtics versus Lebron James. As we all know, the feelings changed after the next two games were played and the Heat went on to win the title, but at the time everything made sense. James thought everything would come to him; Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics wanted to take what they thought was rightfully theirs. “I want them to hate (Miami). I want them to beat them.” It is strange that in an off-season where the Celtics biggest rival made major moves that the Celtics did nothing to counter them. That is usually how it works in sports and yet the Boston Celtics made other moves. They made their moves based on what the Heat were doing and what they needed to do to beat the Heat. The bench let them down in the ECF, so they added bench scoring in Jason Terry. They needed scorers who could go down low and bang the Heat, so they added Jarrod Sullinger through the draft. They needed young athletes who could match up with the Heat players, so they added Courtney Lee and brought back in Jeff Green. If they were worried about their greatest rival, they would have stacked the front line. Instead, they have placed their eyes squarely on the chest of the Miami Heat and the trophy they currently possess. “I want them to hate (Miami). I want them to beat them.” If this season in the Eastern Conference doesn’t end up with another Celtics v. Heat clash in the Eastern Conference Finals, it will be a disappointment. They are the perfect foils for each other in today’s NBA. One team represents the most modern of the NBA today and the other is the group that holds onto what the NBA used to be and maybe what it should be. Tonight, the Boston Celtics begin their campaign for banner number 18 by playing those Miami Heat. They play three more times this season, but everyone wants their to be a seven game series with a chance for the winner to compete for the NBA’s greatest prize. Anything else would just be underwhelming.
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