Draymond Green returns to Boston on Thursday and Celtics fans will undoubtedly have something to say about it.
I get it. Green is easy to hate. He plays dirty, he wins ungraciously, he twirls the grey in his beard and plays the villain with Tom Hiddleston's zeal. You want to let him hear it.
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During last year's NBA Finals, the TD Garden crowd managed to get under his skin for all of one game. He kicked everyone's ass up and down the floor thereafter. I understand the urge, but he can take your abuse and turn it into rocket fuel.
So please don't.
Fans rattling opponents is a timeless element of any homecourt advantage. Ralph Sampson wilted in the 1986 Finals under the Garden barrage. Fenway Park memorably serenaded Roger Clemens to the showers during a 1999 ALCS showdown with Pedro Martinez. Only last year, Kyrie Irving devoted more energy to surreptitiously flipping off fans than running the Nets offense en route to a first-round sweep.
This unfortunate moment actually started with Irving, though for once he's blameless. In their rush to let the traitorous All-Star know exactly what they thought of him reneging on his promise to stay, fans resorted to the kind of vulgarity that justifies the pop-culture caricature of Boston as the city where we solve our problems with a bottle to the head and a blur of tracksuits.
"Bleep you, Kyrie!" begat "Bleep you, Draymond!" and this is the part where I toss my pearls and beg the fans to show a little more class and a lot less crass. Boston may be the best sports city in the world, but we don't always play well with others.
Listening to that chant break out during last year's Finals was the definition of cringeworthy. It's unimaginative, amateurish, and embarrassing, and if you think that's an overreaction, ask yourself this: where else do you hear it echo around an arena? The answer is nowhere.
After 20 years of titles, Boston fans have earned their reputation for being as insufferable as a doom scroll of Tom Brady six rings memes. But we shouldn't overinflate our sense of importance. If Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown or even Grant Williams wants to whisper eff you to Green, have at it. They're on the floor and can do something about it. For fans to chant it merely perpetuates the stereotype that we're entitled brats.
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There are a million other ways to get under Green's skin. Every time he touches the ball from beyond 15 feet, scream for him to shoot as a reminder that he can't. Boo him. Jeer him. Heckle him. Just don't take the easy way out and curse at him.
This Celtics team, with the best record in the NBA and a legitimate shot at a title, deserves better, anyway. The C's don't rub it in anyone's face or play like the Bad Boys. They do it right, and the fans should follow their lead, especially when it comes to the Warriors, who singlehandedly derailed their season for three weeks last month with a blowout win at home. Until the Celtics prove they can overcome Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and yes, Draymond Green, the fans should keep their worst thoughts to themselves.
After all, we admonish athletes to act like they've been there before when their exuberance crosses a line. The loudest Celtics fans need to learn the same lesson. When the urge strikes them to treat Green like it's Game 3 of the Finals again, just remember this -- he won that series because you couldn't get to him.
Yell something else.