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A hater’s guide to the Boston Celtics

Which Celtics player should Sixers fans hate the most? All of them.

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2023 NBA Playoffs - Atlanta Hawks v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

The Boston Celtics suck.

I don’t mean that in a basketball sense. Despite their best efforts to blow their first-round series against the Fighting Trae Youngs, the Celtics are a frustratingly good team this year. They won 57 games in the regular season and were one of the NBA’s most prolific three-point shooting teams.

Instead, the Celtics suck on a deeper level. They don’t have cultural rot like the Washington Commanders or the Dallas Mavericks, nor are they cheapskates like the Houston Rockets and the Robert Sarver-led Phoenix Suns. In fact, they acted swiftly to suspend former head coach Ime Udoka when he was found to be having an inappropriate workplace relationship even though he was fresh off taking them to the NBA Finals. That’s commendable, particularly in a league where teams are often willing to overlook off-court transgressions (hi, Memphis Grizzlies) in the all-consuming pursuit of on-court success.

So, why do the Celtics suck? It’s simple, really. They’ve managed to put together the NBA’s most annoying compilation of players this side of Graceland.

Despite Al Horford’s attempts at reverse psychology, the Celtics are going to get booed into the center of the earth when they arrive at the Wells Fargo Center for Games 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. But if you’re looking for a guide of which Celtics players to hate the most, we’ve got you covered.

5. Jaylen Brown

Sixers fans have no real reason to hate Jaylen Brown aside from his being on the Celtics. He’s widely regarded as one of the more intellectually curious players in the NBA, and he deserves commendation for his activism around racial equity. (He also called out a portion of Celtics fans for being toxic, which objectively rules.)

However, he’s put his foot in his mouth a few times with in the past year.

After signing with Kanye West’s Donda Sports agency in May, Brown initially told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe that he planned to stick with the agency in October even after Ye went on a series of anti-Semitic rants. However, he quickly changed course, saying that he worked hard “to have the platform that I have and use it to be a voice for the voiceless” and didn’t want to sacrifice that by sticking with Ye’s agency.

Speaking of being a “voice for the voiceless” and anti-Semitism, Brown also defended his former teammate, Kyrie Irving, after the Brooklyn Nets suspended him for sharing an anti-Semitic film on social media. Brown, who’s a vice president of the National Basketball Players Association, told Logan Murdock of The Ringer that Irving’s suspension violated the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement and “kind of got looked over like it was nothing.”

“I feel like what the Brooklyn Nets did—I still feel the same way—it was inappropriate,” Brown said. “I think it was like a public ransom note almost, in a sense, where he had a list of demands he had to do to return to the game.” (As a reminder, Irving also refused to apologize for sharing said film, which included this.)

In February, Brown also told Washburn that he wanted to see former Celtics head coach “back on his feet” following his yearlong suspension. “I want to see all partners win,” he added.

While there might not be as many Sixers-specific reasons to dislike Brown as there are for some of his teammates, kudos to him for keeping such terrible company in recent months.

4. Malcolm Brogdon

Malcolm Brogdon seems like a good guy. He immediately bought into a bench role upon his arrival in Boston despite spending the past four seasons as a full-time starter. That sacrifice paid off, as Brogdon won the Sixth Man of the Year award after averaging 14.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 26.0 minutes per game off the bench across 67 regular-season outings.

While New York Knicks fans might hate Brogdon for beating Immanuel Quickley for 6MOY, many Sixers fans harbor deep-seated resentment toward him over a previous awards race.

After missing the first two seasons of his career because of back-to-back foot surgeries, Joel Embiid made his long-awaited NBA debut in 2016-17 and immediately put the league on notice. In 31 games, the big fella averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in only 25.4 minutes per game, and he led all rookies that year in PER, box plus/minus and value over replacement player. (Oh, great. Now I sound like a Nuggets fan.)

Brogdon also made his NBA debut that season, averaging 10.2 points, 4.2 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game for the Milwaukee Bucks. But because he played 75 games to Embiid’s 31, he edged out both Embiid and Sixers forward Dario Saric for the Rookie of the Year award.

The Rights to Ricky Sanchez folks organized a trip of 400-plus fans to a Bucks-Sixers game in 2018 just to boo the everliving hell out of Brogdon for his participation trophy Rookie of the Year triumph. He’ll now be coming to Philly for at least two games this series, where he should receive the exact same treatment from the Wells Fargo Center crowd.

If Atlanta Hawks fans booed Brogdon for questioning their dedication, it’s only right that Sixers fans give him a hearty Philadelphia welcome for winning an award six years ago that was completely out of his control.

3. Marcus Smart

When an Eagles player dyes his hair green—shout-out to Jalen Mills—it’s cool.

When a Celtics player does it, it’s lame as hell.

Sorry, but I don’t make the rules.

That isn’t the only reason to hate Smart, though. He’s been called for nearly 1,800 personal fouls across his regular-season and playoff career, but I’m not convinced he thinks a single one of those was a legitimate call. He also flops more than a Magikarp.

Smart isn’t a renowned trash talker like Draymond Green, Patrick Beverley or Dillon Brooks, but he’s that exact archetype of player—an annoying pest whom you love if he’s on your team and you hate if he’s on any other team. If he were on the Sixers, we would gloss over his mediocre shooting efficiency to hype up how much dawg he has in him. Lord knows we’ve done the same for P.J. Tucker this year.

Instead, he plays for the Celtics, which is bad enough on its own. But add Smart’s brand of physical, snarling defense—especially if James Harden looks as washed as he did for most of the Nets series—and Sixers fans won’t be able to stand him all series, especially with his ridiculous leprechaun hairdo.

On the bright side, Smart’s career shooting percentage (38.6) puts Terry Rozier’s to shame (41.7). Fire away in this series, Marcus!

2. Jayson Tatum

Choosing between Jayson Tatum and Al Horford for the No. 1 spot is an exercise in futility. Both have equal claims to the throne. Consider them the 1 and 1A here.

Tatum and the Sixers will be intertwined throughout his entire NBA career thanks to the Colangelo Crime Family. After the Sixers swapped their No. 5 pick with the Sacramento Kings’ No. 3 pick in the 2017 NBA draft (Sam Hinkie’s final parting gift to the organization), the Colangelos immediately messed it up by trading that pick along with a future first-rounder to the Celtics for No. 1, which they used on Markelle Fultz.

A rare shoulder injury and/or the Monstars caused Fultz to forget how to shoot upon his arrival in Philadelphia. He played only 33 regular-season games for the Sixers before they shipped him to the Orlando Magic for Jonathon Simmons, a 2019 second-round pick and a future first-round pick. (Thankfully, that first-rounder turned into Tyrese Maxey.)

Meanwhile, Tatum has developed into one of the NBA’s brightest young stars. The Celtics have made the playoffs in each of his six seasons, he’s riding four straight All-Star nods, and he’s a virtual lock to be named to the All-NBA first team for the second consecutive season. Although he eventually fell out of contention for MVP his year, he still mustered a career-high 30.1 points on 46.6 percent shooting while drilling 35.0 percent of his 9.3 three-point attempts per game.

Tatum and Joel Embiid also share the same trainer, Drew Hanlen, which gives this series a splash of Kelce Bowl flavor. There’s no word as to whether Hanlen will channel his inner Donna Kelce and wear a split jersey, but let’s hope Carl Cheffers isn’t within 1,000 miles of the arena either way.

1. Al Horford

We could go back and forth all day on the Sixers’ biggest mistakes of the post-Hinkie era. The aforementioned Fultz trade and trading away Mikal Bridges are certainly up there. But sign-and-trading Jimmy Butler to the Miami Heat for Josh Richardson and using that cap space to sign Al Horford to a four-year, $109 million contract has to be toward the top of those rankings as well.

In 2018-19, the Celtics were 5.0 points per 100 possessions better with Horford on the floor versus when he sat, according to Cleaning the Glass. During his lone season in Philadelphia, the Sixers were only 0.2 points per 100 possessions better with Horford on the floor. Lineup-based stats can be noisy at times, but that’s just about the perfect summary for Horford’s brief Sixers tenure.

The Sixers brought Horford in to be a frontcourt complement to Embiid and the primary backup center whenever Embiid was off the floor. There was just one problem: Horford was too old and slow to play power forward. The Sixers got outscored by 1.4 points per 100 possessions when he played the 4, according to Cleaning the Glass, while they outscored opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions with him at center.

Although Horford has three-point range, he shot only 35.0 percent from deep with the Sixers, so opponents weren’t afraid to leave him open from beyond the arc. He also shot a career-worst 38.1 percent between three and 10 feet from the basket, and he accompanied every miss with a frustrated hand clap that genuinely might haunt my dreams until I die. The Sixers were practically begging opponents to double- or triple-team Embiid whenever he shared the floor with Horford and Ben Simmons, and they were more than happy to oblige.

Horford deserves props for resurrecting his career in Oklahoma City and meaningfully contributing to a Boston team that made the Finals last year. Just not from us.

Let’s all agree on one thing, though: Please proactively mute and block Anna Horford on Twitter before this series begins. Regardless of whether the Sixers win or lose, you should not want to interact with the queen 4chan troll of Celtics Twitter.

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