- Peter May, Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- Byron Scott sure guaranteed one thing: Games 3 and 4 of the New Jersey-Boston series will be played in an atmosphere in Boston which might make the fans from Manchester United envious.
The Nets coach amped things up considerably by taking potshots at the Celtics' fans and at the city of Boston. Who knows what his motives were? To draw the attention away from his players, or the series? To call the bluff of the boisterous and, yes, obnoxious Boston fans?
One thing seems clear: He's going to hear it before the games, during the games and after the games for four straight, lovely, Mother's Day weekend days in the city called the Athens of America. (We think that's a reference to the Athens in Greece, not the one in Georgia, although sometimes, it's hard to tell.) Unless he turns into Howard Hughes, he's going to hear it in the restaurants, on the street, everywhere he ventures.
Hey, if that is what he intended with his little discourse last Wednesday, then more power to him. But sometimes, be careful what you wish for because you might actually get it.
Basically, if Scott has shown one trait since he's taken over in New Jersey is that he is your basic loose cannon. This latest episode is only the last of many ill-advised remarks he has made. This is the same guy who questioned Kenyon Martin's toughness, for goodness sakes. It's the same guy who questioned Don Chaney's substitution patterns in an exhibition game and additionally said he wouldn't want Latrell Sprewell on his team because Spree apparently moves to his own clock. Did we mention that he also once inferred that his team played like women?
Then he went on the radio Wednesday before Game 2 and said the fans in Boston were, among other things, abusive, hostile, crazy and liquored-up. All of which is probably true, unfortunately. Boston didn't exactly cover itself with glory last spring with its tasteless chanting of "Wife beater!" every time Jason Kidd had the ball. But if you know that, why on earth are you going to possibly make it even worse for your team by saying what he said?
It was almost as if Scott was challenging the fans of Boston to be even more of a group of Luddites, if that's possible. Look, this is not meant to be a defense of the supposedly sophisticated fans of Boston. Remember the Ryder Cup at The Country Club? The fans behaved disgracefully. Remember the 1999 ALCS when they threw bottles onto the field? That was real classy. Sure, it turned out they were only plastic bottles. But how do you know that if you're the guy in the line of fire?
The fans in Boston don't hold a patent on shameless behavior. Rowdy fans are like traffic -- bad everywhere. I believe I even heard a couple of rude chants in the Meadowlands in Games 1 or 2, although I can't be sure if those were real chants or they were piped in over the public address system. But Celtics coach Jim O'Brien, who would prefer to issue statements to the media in these times of ultra-focus, didn't say anything to warrant such a silly outburst. Scott not only knew what was coming in Boston, he pushed the envelope to make certain it would be a Category 5 crowd.
Then there was the similarly silly remark about the history of Boston and its black athletes. Scott, who in 1993 said he came close to signing with the Celtics as a free agent, brought up the whole, ugly scenario on the same radio show in which he ripped the Boston fans. There are no excuses for the things that went on in Boston in the 1960s and 1970s. There's no excuse for what happened to Dee Brown in Wellesley, a leafy, affluent suburb, in the 1990s. But if it's so bad in Boston, why did he think about playing there?
He could have asked Paul Pierce, Eric Williams, Antoine Walker, or Walter McCarty how bad things are in Boston these days. Pierce and Walker would have told him that they'd signed long-term extensions to play in Boston and are quite comfortable. Williams could have told him he wants to sign an extension when his deal expires after next season. McCarty could have told him he has been here since 1997 and wants to go nowhere else.
In Scott's defense, the witless radio guys who kept prodding him to discuss Boston's racial/athletic history egged him on. But Scott could have told them that that was old news, that he didn't visit there all that much and it was beneath him to get into it. But he didn't. He could have told them that he once strongly considered playing there. But he didn't.
But here's what he did do -- he gave everyone something to write about. The tabloid Boston Herald carried front- AND back-page columns on Scott, one of them tearing into him for his remarks and the other asking Celtics fans to take the high road (as if they know what that is.) Scott's remarks even bumped soon-to-be basketball boss Danny Ainge off the lead page.
In other words, he kept the focus on himself and away from the series. Now, if his team was down 2-0, you might understand that. But his team leads the series 2-0. It has won eight of the last nine meetings with the Celtics. Martin, the supposed soft guy who Scott ripped a few years ago, has dominated the veteran All-Star, Walker. Kidd has been unstoppable in transition. The pixie dust that covered the Celtics' shooters in the Indiana series has gone. The Nets have dominated the boards and made the big plays.
After two games, Scott's Nets look like the superior team. That should be enough, shouldn't it? Instead, he decided to take on the fans of Boston and the city of Boston and, well, he might not win that one. But that's not a victory he cares about. If his Nets can merely get one win over the weekend, there's a good chance he won't see or hear the fans of Boston again until next fall. That would be the strongest message of all to send, even if it meant that the players would be doing all of the speaking.
Peter May, who covers the NBA for the Boston Globe, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.
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