Making nice with enemies
All-Stars don’t take a shine to Celtics
LOS ANGELES — So how exactly is this supposed to work at NBA All-Star Weekend?
Does it play out like that episode of “The Wire’’ in which Omar Little, West Baltimore’s Robin Hood, finally gets locked up and has to stare down the angry convicts he has stolen from?
Will it be like Charlie Sheen having to spend three days locked in a wine-and-cheese party with his scorned ex-girlfriends?
Will every Eastern Conference All-Star spend the entire weekend with teeth rather than fists clenched?
This season, the Celtics have gone from city to city like outlaws, embracing the idea of being not just the bullies but the villains. And now, with Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo all named to the team and Doc Rivers coaching it, the bad guys essentially are in control.
In case the greatest hits slipped your mind, here are some quick refreshers on the Celtics and their weekend rent-a-friends:
In Orlando, Garnett faked biting Dwight Howard’s outstretched arm (one of those “mind games’’ he likes to play), and Howard tried entirely too hard to prove to everyone — but mostly himself — that Garnett can’t get in his head anymore.
Then there was the time the Celtics turned Madison Square Garden into Harlem’s Rucker Park. Amar’e Stoudemire no doubt remembers Garnett and Pierce taking bows on his home court after Pierce knocked down the game-winning shot. Spike Lee mostly remembers Garnett cursing at him.
Also, for the record, Pierce still theoretically owes Atlanta’s Al Horford money — $50,000 from a bet during the 2008 playoffs. Awkward.
For what it’s worth, Rondo says he has “no beef’’ with any of the other Eastern All-Stars. He promised that, after snooping in on Miami’s huddle last Sunday, he’d welcome LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh into the circle of Celtics this weekend.
Rondo and Derrick Rose get along well enough, having made names for themselves in the Bulls-Celtics 2009 playoff series. His obvious enemy is New Orleans’s Chris Paul, but since he’ll be playing for the West, Rondo won’t have to fake a temporary friendship.
Allen will play his normal role, part politician, part peacekeeper. Otherwise, a relatively lighthearted weekend has all the makings of being entirely too tense.
“Especially when you have guys that don’t like each other,’’ said Rivers. “In this case, I don’t know if that’s true. But there are certain guys on different teams that don’t like each other, and then they’re in the All-Star Game and you see them laughing and joking, and you know that they’re so freaking phony right now.’’
Rondo didn’t deny it.
“I can’t call anybody out,’’ he said.
Even in Tinseltown, there is nothing phony about the way the locals feel about the Celtics. Just three weeks ago, the Celtics dominated the Lakers, taking the air out of Staples Center. Now the jewel of downtown Los Angeles becomes a showcase for the first foursome of All-Star teammates in eight years and only the second in 27 years.
“We might get booed,’’ Rondo said.
And when Rivers puts all four of his All-Stars on the floor — which he said he will — who’s the fifth man?
James? Wade? Howard? Bosh? Stoudemire? Horford?
“I don’t know how it’s going to go,’’ Rondo said. “I just want to have some fun.’’
As he considered the possibilities, Rivers did his best to avoid tampering.
“I can get used to that,’’ he said.
But anyone coming to Boston would have to be prepared for the fact that the mind games don’t stop even if you’re wearing the same jersey.
In the weeks since calling out Allen for the 3-point competition, Pierce has combined trash talk and trickery, because, well, an opponent is an opponent.
His latest, and probably greatest, ploy came Wednesday night during Allen’s pregame shooting routine. Allen was at the far end, getting shots up, when Pierce had someone roll out the basketball racks, launching practice threes, then staring Allen down from afar.
Allen wasn’t the least bit surprised at the lengths Pierce would go to defend his 3-point title.
“Do you have to ask that question?’’ he said.
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.