<
>

Hating the Celts means rooting Celts: Sophie's choice for Lakers fans

Andrew Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Even small members of the Laker

Nation know to hate the Celtics.

Without looking too far ahead, assuming the Lakers reach the Finals for the third year running, fans are clamoring for a showdown with the Celtics, a preference stemming from a very emotional place.

I'm not referring to the rich history between these teams, although that obviously sets the story. The quest to lap the Boston for the most titles matters, but that's also a never-ending race. Caking Red Auerbach in even more of Phil Jackson's dust would be sweet, but even if Phil never wins another title, neither will Auerbach. Pole position remains permanently established in PJ's favor.

Instead, Lakers-Celtics wishes are about something more primal.

Revenge.

By playing Boston in the Finals, the Lakers get their shot at redemption after a humiliating defeat while chasing the 2008 title. Between Kobe's struggles from the field, the supporting cast's ineffectiveness, the 24-point lead blown in a stunning Game 4 loss at Staples Center, or the debacle that is "131-92," no Laker escaped the series with clean hands. They weren't just beaten. They were demoralized. The experience ultimately helped the Lakers, providing the motivation necessary to fuel their title run sequel. But a backhanded favor isn't enough to let bygones be bygones for the players, if I had to guess.

And I know for a fact it's not enough for the Laker Nation.

As the saying goes, revenge is a dish best served cold. Considering a finals trip will be made possible by beating a Suns franchise that bounced the Lakers in the 2006 and 2007 first round, Lakers fans will have developed a taste for this meal.

Assuming they can keep the food stomached without vomiting, of course.

There's a Pavlovian reaction in L.A. to hate everything Celtics. It's how the Laker Nation is wired. We don't like the Celtics. We'll never like the Celtics. Nothing short of unbridled, car crash failure is wished upon this franchise. A pox on your casa verde. But the only way to beat these guys in the Finals is to see them in the Finals, and there's a strong Magic team geared up to stop them. The Celtics need your support to reach the Finals, Lakers fans. Can you go there and still respect yourself in the morning?

Of course, if a Celts showdown is the desired outcome, Lakers fans have already had practice rooting against type. Boston entered the Eastern Conference semi's as the perceived underdog against Cleveland, which meant Lakers fans were actually hoping against hope on the bad guy's behalf. But bizarre as these circumstances may seem, Laker fans could rationalize them by remembering the Celtic pride's byproduct: LeBron James gets taken down a peg.

Charles Krupa/AP Photo

A miserable presser for LeBron equals a happy

day for Lakers fans.

Or in the case of this particular flame out, dissected like a biology class frog.

Maybe it's just me, but I've gotten the sense Lakers fans somewhat resent the implication LeBron has bumped Kobe Bryant as the NBA's big kahuna, particularly without a hint of jewelry not purchased in a store. Even worse, this season and early playoffs were heavy on a "Mamba's skills and heath are in decline" subplot, making the King's coronation even more "official." Well, purple and gold loyalists haven't taken kindly to this particular story, and as much as it would have been fun to see the Lakers take out LBJ AND Shaq in one fell swoop, many will derive even more pleasure in seeing James fall short of the opportunity to fall short. With in mind, getting behind Boston could be justified.

(And by the way, could that series have worked out any better for Kobe/Lakers fans? LeBron wipes out and the Celtics are totally getting ignored after dropping him. You couldn't script this stuff if you tried.)

With LeBron out of the picture, however, the process perhaps becomes tougher to comprehend. The Lakers have already beaten the Magic at the highest level. Referee whining aside, Dwight Howard is a pretty likable guy. Kobe's long since passed Vince Carter in the pantheon of great wing players. Who the hell hates Jameer Nelson or Rashard Lewis? EVERYBODY loves them some Polish Hammer, especially after this Tweet. Granted, Matt Barnes behaved like an insane ass hat towards Kobe during the last meeting in Orlando, but like Bryant said, it was more funny than infuriating.

Truth be told, it's hard mustering up much hatred for the Magic without a series against them, which means we've reached the stage where rooting Celtics becomes an exercise in purposeful self-torture.

So how do Laker fans wrap their head around this unthinkable mindset of rooting feverishly for Ticket, Truth, Jesus, and whatever Rajon Rondo is nicknamed? Seriously, this could be a very long, drawn out process of horribly distasteful actions. Game 1 doesn't begin until Sunday. The way both teams have been playing, I imagine this is at least a six-game series. Maybe seven. That's a LONG time to maintain a green embrace? How best to make this cruel irony go down a little easier?

Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

When trying to act like a bully,

ask yourself WWKGD?

Maybe it's a matter of spending the next 48 hours doing activities so horribly devoid of pleasure, cheering for the Celtics won't feel so bad by comparison. Voluntary root canal without the Novocaine chaser. Lunches with with Smush Parker and Spencer Pratt. A 24-hour marathon of The View, heavy on "Elizabeth cries" episodes. Serving as Lilo's chaperone at an open bar function where Sam-Ro is rocking the turntables. Immersing yourself in the poetry of Andrew Dice Clay. After two days emptying your soul in such dispiriting fashion, lobbying for a quartet of Boston wins may feel small potatoes by comparison.

Perhaps the approach is filling the Celtics hate void with alternative hateful activities. Find an absolutely adorable puppy, then kick it. Bully a six-year old for no particular reason. (As a coincidental bonus, that's basically the same thing as channeling your "inner-Kevin Garnett.") Literally pee in someone's Cheerios. That's the go-to expression for someone's day being spoiled, but even my worst enemy has never actually done that to me. I've never met anybody who's experienced it, either. The saying is more urban legend than practiced method of awfulness. I have to imagine it's a pretty brutal slap in the recipient's face. At the very least, it's horribly disrespectful, not to mention totally gross. If you're looking to crank things to another level, here you go.

Of course, Laker fans take pride in being "better than" fans who behave like, say, those mocking Derek Fisher in Utah. Or any sports fan in Philly. Some would say in Boston as well. There's a (purple and) gold standard, and if Lakers fans want it to signify more than lip service, perhaps the only real solution is a purely pragmatic approach. All business, nothing personal. Whatever doesn't kill me makes me stronger. Eyes forward and fixed on the eventual prize.

In any event... um... go Celts?

<br /> <a href="http://polldaddy.com/poll/3204687/" mce_href="http://polldaddy.com/poll/3204687/">Can you root for the Celtics if it means playing/beating them in the Finals</a><span mce_><a href="http://polldaddy.com/features-surveys/" mce_href="http://polldaddy.com/features-surveys/">online surveys</a></span><br />