“Honestly, I don’t care about the Lakers,” Rivers said. “My honest thought as a coach right now … I have my eye squarely on Miami. I come up to my players during the year — they’re in the facility now — I bring up Miami every single day to them. I want them to hate them. I want them to beat them. That’s got to be our focus.”
Losing to a team is usually a good reason to “hate” them the next year. The fact remains, the Celtics took the Heat further than any team in the NBA Playoffs, pushing a game seven, when the Thunder could manage to take them only five.
Moreover, it seems everyone hates the Heat, anyway. The way the team coalesced was so dubious, so rancid, that it leaves a bad taste in many fans’ mouths, especially, of course, Cleveland Cavs fans.
So, hating the Heat shouldn’t be much of a problem for Celtics players.
The cockiness of LeBron James, the piggybacking of Chris Bosh…and Wade, well, I suppose he is the only really ‘likable’ Heat player on the squad, since it was he who built the dynasty, by recruiting his friends. He was loyal to the Heat, is what I am saying. He still took place in their Backstreet Boys party after the signings, but what else could he do?
Nonetheless, Rivers is wise to focus on the Heat. They are in the Eastern Conference. There’s no sense getting worked up about the respect and admiration being lofted at the Lakers, not when they won’t be a possible playoff opponent until the last possible moment — the NBA Finals.
Beyond that, I’m sure Kevin Garnett is going to be capable of stirring up some heated emotion in his teammates. KG is a vicious competitor, and even without Rivers goading the players to hate the Heat, KG will instill a “must kill all” mentality in his teammates.
The idea is definitely right: Hate your top competitor. Basketball is a fun sport, and it’s all in good fun, but championships aren’t won by patting opponents on the butt and helping them off the floor when they fall. They’re won by hate. Good old fashioned hate.