A big complaint from the casual NBA fan is that in an 82-game regular season, the individual game doesn’t mean THAT much. While I disagree with that sentiment, I can understand why people feel that way.
So what’s the best way to make people care about an ordinary regular season game in the middle of January? Lets look at the Wizards-Celtics matchup as a perfect (and my new favorite) example of making the regular season matter.
For those who don’t follow basketball closely – the Washington Wizards and Boston Celtics are not rivals. They are two Eastern Conference teams who meet several times over the course of the season, but there isn’t a deep-rooted rivalry based on past playoff series or geographic location.
So why then was last night’s game between them so important to both teams? It’s simple: the Wizards manufactured the game into a rivalry.
Let’s start from the beginning. The two sides met on Nov. 9 of this season, and with a little over five minutes left in a Wizard’s blowout win, this happened:
Say what you want about the play, but it triggered both sides to come to bat for their teammates. Whether Wall had malicious intent or not (he looked like a cornerback closing in on his receiver up the middle), he still ended up inciting a strong reaction out of a hot-headed Marcus Smart.
Then this happened on Jan. 11 after a 117-108 Celtics win over Washington.
Yep. That’s John Wall once again getting into with a Celtics player, this time Jae Crowder, and doing just enough to get him to jump.
If you’re looking for a theme it’s that these teams don’t like each other.
Fast forward to last night when the Wizards and the Celtics met once again. Several hours before tip-off, news started to circulate that the Wizards players would be wearing “All-Black everything” to the game. Why?
They wanted to stage a “funeral” for the Celtics and they knew the media would eat it up.
Here’s some of the players arriving to the game, courtesy of CSN’s Chase Hughes.
While some players ended up looking more like they belonged in “The Matrix,” they successfully got their point across.
When Celtics players heard of this stunt, they were less than pleased. Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder both called it “cute,” with Thomas going on to say it seemed odd for them to be behaving this way when it’s not “Game 7” of the playoffs. He’s not necessarily wrong.
At the end of all the commotion, the Wizards topped the Celtics, 123-108.
Now, I think think this whole thing is incredible. Washington took a middle of the season game that probably had very few eyes on it and gave it national attention. And whether Boston fans agree, this is some sort of animosity to this game now. You may even call it a…. rivalry. Is it petty? Sure. But does it add extra meaning to every time these two sides face each other? Absolutely.
The NBA needs more of this. I’m not one for antics and this sort of thing on the court, but off of the court I’m all for it. If you need to play a little bit of dress-up to light a spark, then go right ahead. I’m not advocating for another scrap between these two teams, but it’s nice to know that both sides are going to take these games are seriously as they can.
This is how you make the regular season matter to even the most casual of fans. From me, a Boston Celtics fan, I commend all of the Washington Wizards.