There were several events this past summer that forever altered the rivalry between the Wizards and Celtics, but one could argue the day of July 7 stands out above all. That's when Boston traded Avery Bradley to the Detroit Pistons for Marcus Morris and a second round pick.
Bradley didn't have a central role in the bad blood like Jae Crowder or Kelly Olynyk, who established themselves as villians to Wizards fans. But he was Boston's best answer to John Wall and Bradley Beal, a defensive stalwart who gave them fits like few others in the NBA can.
Most importantly, the acquisition of Morris put him on the opposite side of Wizards forward Markieff Morris, one of the rivalry's key characters. Now this feud that had boiled over in a contentious playoff series this past spring features twin brothers and best friends. So much for the hatred.
Soon after the trade, Markieff said the rivalry should carry on. But now, as their first matchup of the season on Christmas Day nears, he is singing a bit of a different tune.
"I'm excited to play against him. Them, I couldn't care less. It's not like the rivalry is still there. The main guys went to Cleveland, so it's going to be a little different this year," he said.
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Markieff added that the Celtics lost their "chippy guys," meaning Crowder, who was traded to the Cavs, and Olynyk who signed with the Heat. Also, Jonas Jerebko who had a dustup with Ian Mahinmi in Game 3 of their playoff series, signed with the Jazz.
Crowder had a long history of sparring with the Wizards, going back to the 2015-16 season when he got into an argument with then-Wizards coach Randy Wittman. Crowder also got into a slapping match with John Wall in January. Olynyk is famous for getting pushed to the ground by Kelly Oubre, Jr. in Game 3, an act that earned Oubre a one-game suspension.
Those three are gone and so is Isaiah Thomas, the Celtics' best player from last season. He was traded to Cleveland along with Crowder.
But remaining are Marcus Smart, who has had run-ins with the Wizards before including both Wall and Beal. There's also Terry Rozier, who was ejected from Game 3 after mixing it up with then-Wizards player Brandon Jennings.
And, of course, there's Al Horford. Surely Markieff remembers him. It was in Game 1 of that playoff series that Horford stepped under Markieff's jumpshot and sprained his left ankle. Morris retaliated in Game 2 and is still dealing with complications from that injury.
Markieff did technically leave the door open for some fireworks.
"I don't talk trash to my brother. I guess we'll be the two that stand in and not let it happen," he said. "But if they want to keep it going, I'm all for it."
Markieff used to look forward to playing the Celtics because of the rivalry. Now, it's because he gets to be with family. Marcus hasn't seen Markieff's daughter since the day she was born in September due to their NBA commitments.
"It's going to be special, man. I'm excited because half of my family is going to be there in Boston staying at his house. He will get to spend time with his niece," Markieff said.
Markieff and Marcus have had some strange parallels this season. They each began the year injured and debuted on the same day, Nov. 3. They then missed games due to injury on Dec. 13.
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Markieff wasn't surprised by any of it.
"That's some twin s—. That's how s— usually happens," he said.
Wait, is twin s— an actual thing? Because everyone who isn't a twin has wondered that before.
"I don't know, man. Weird s— always happens, so I feel like it is real. I feel like it is," he said.
That's good to know.
Marcus remains out with a left knee injury, but is on track to return on Dec. 25, ready to play his brother. Markieff said neither of them need presents. He wishes Marcus good health and for himself: "I've already got my daughter. I'm good to go."
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