The Washington Wizards play host to the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night in a game that has quickly escalated from a seemingly forgettable regular-season NBA matchup to a bitter contest between fierce — and extremely random — rivals.
On Monday night, the Wizards revealed that they would arrive at their arena ahead of Tuesday’s game wearing in all black — dressed, that is, for a funeral.
This sort of sartorial symbolism is typically reserved for postseason close-out games.
The Knicks, you may remember, pulled this stunt against the Celtics during Game 5 the first round of the 2013 Eastern Conference playoffs. (In very on-brand fashion, the Knicks went on to lose that game.) The Wizards, meanwhile, have opted instead for funeral wear in the middle of January. Before the All-Star Break.
Here’s Wizards point guard John Wall explaining the matter:
And here is Jason Smith arriving on Tuesday afternoon in all black:
And Marcin Gortat:
And Otto Porter:
A casual NBA observer might reasonably wonder why these two teams have suddenly become such rivals.
But this Acela Corridor beef has been simmering for some time. Last January, then-Wizards coach Randy Whitman got into a verbal altercation with Jae Crowder of the Celtics. According to Crowder, who went on to hit the game-winner, Whitman called him soft. Later that month, Marcus Smart of the Celtics broke Bradley Beal’s nose on a layup.
Moving forward to this year, the two teams have feuded twice. First, on November 9, 2016, Wall was ejected in the fourth quarter for throwing Smart to the ground:
Then, on January 11, another altercation took place. This time, after a testy game, Wall and Crowder exchanged words on the court. Crowder put his index finger on Wall’s nose, and a moment later Wall tried to slap Crowder.
According to reports, Smart and Crowder tried to meet Wall outside of his locker room, and cops had to stand guard to prevent anything else from happening.
This brings us to Tuesday night’s game. To repeat: we aren’t yet at the All-Star break; NBA games are not exactly must-win right now. But the Wizards are ramping up the stakes, and who can blame them.
What’s more, the Celtics (26-17) and the Wizards (24-20) are both likely bound for the Eastern Conference playoffs. That could mean a possible seven-game series, which would be incredibly entertaining — both sartorially and, you know, in terms of the basketball.
Me to John Wall: “All black everything?”
Wall: “A black everything. A fun-er-ral!”
Beal in background: “Yaa.”
— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) January 24, 2017
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