- Sam Alipour
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No doubt about it, The Gang Green has invaded LA, and Angelenos aren't too happy about it. I was at Staples Center's "Home Court Advantage"—where Lakers fans go to watch road playoff games on the Jumbotron—for Game 2 where I spotted not one, but three ugly altercations, with Celtics fans in full C's regalia as victims. There was less ugliness at Game 3 two days later, but still plenty of green-inspired finger wagging and obscenities that'd make even a Bostonian blush. Which begs the question: In an environment such as this, why would a celebrity like Donnie Wahlberg, a man looking to work in an industry overrun by purple-and-gold Suits—and a man who owns a home here in Laker Nation, no less—show up wearing a Paul Pierce jersey to a Lakers Party?
We'll let the NKOTBer-turned-actor and perhaps the C's most vocal supporter, explain why the C's will be fine, LA is soft, and the refs aren't kind … to the Celitcs.
ESPNthemag.com: You've got guts wearing that jersey to a Lakers home game. Do you feel safe?
Donnie Wahlberg: (Laughs) Safe? Who's going to hurt me in LA?
Well, are you telling me you're not feeling any heat?
Heat from who? What are they going to do? (Laughs) No, but you understand what I'm saying?
I think I do. You can kick some ass?
Well, cheerleaders may give me a hard time out here, and that's about it. I'm not worried about anyone else. This is LA.
What's going wrong for the Celtics?
Actually, I think they're doing everything right. We knew there'd be an emotional lift from the fans and the calls would swing to the Lakers favor in LA. But the Celtics are weathering the storm. We're in perfect position.
I'd say. So, what's the going rate for referees? How much did you pay them for Games 1 and 2?
Let me tell you about the refs: We were outshot by Atlanta by 20 free-throws a night. That happened because the Celtics took them lightly and didn't go to the hole. And that's what LA didn't do in the first two games. They didn't go to hole, so they weren't getting foul calls. The refs aren't going to call fouls when Kobe's pulling up for 3's and shooting jumpers all over the place.
I have a theory: Unlike their 80s counterparts, the current Lakers don't hate the Celtics. Not enough, anyway. On the other hand, I think the Celtics hate the Lakers bad.
I keep saying that the Lakers need someone to step up and do what McHale did to Rambis. They need someone to clothesline someone else. But if they do it, then what happens? Who's going to step up and fight for the Lakers? That's their problem.
They don't have any tough guys, do they?
Farmar's got some toughness. He's a superstar in the making. But no, no tough guys. The Cetlics got a few tough guys.
Is there anyone on the Lakers you wouldn't want to meet in an alley?
I think they'd all try to pick me up if I met them in an alley. (Laughs)
How about Turiaf? He looks half-crazy. Sasha looks a bit nuts, too. He might scratch your eyes out.
Turiaf's a gentle giant. He's a sweetheart. They're all nice guys. I like the Lakers players. I hate the team, but those guys are nice.
We know about New Kids. What else you got going on?
I may do a sports movie. But it's too early. I don't want to start talking about a project that's in the works, that's not official yet. Because the producers are all Lakers fans I gotta watch myself.
You sure do. After this interview, will you still be sticking around LA?
I'll be at Game Four, but I got a show on Sunday. I got a house out here, so it's easy.
Can I get the address? I won't share with the Lakers fans. Promise.
I know, right? Now that I talked so much trash, they'll throw rocks at my house.
17hEric D. Williams
8hChris Broussard and Marc Stein