Aaron Ethridge argues why you should cheer for, or against, the Boston Celtics and the Brooklyn Nets.

It is nearly impossible to follow every single one of the thirty NBA teams. On any given night, half of them could be playing one of their 82 games in four different timezones. It quickly becomes necessary to whittle down the choices, following just a few teams. Choosing these teams can be a difficult choice (akin to the Sorting Hat in Harry Potter, or choosing a starter Pokemon in Pokemon). There are no taksies-backsies, for if you do renege on your choice you will be forever named a “band-wagoner,” which is definitely the worst insult ever. So how do you choose?

If you’re from America, you could always take the “hometown proximity” route and cheer for whichever team plays closest to you. This can have unfortunate side effects, like becoming a fan of the Indiana Pacers (more on that down the road). But what about the millions of people who weren’t born into this masochistic life as a NBA fan? What team should they (or you) root for? Or better yet, which team should you absolutely despise? Well, have no fear. Over the next few weeks I will diligently explain to you why you should cheer or hate every single NBA team. We will start this week with two teams from the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference: the Boston Celtics and the Brooklyn Nets.

The Boston Celtics

The Band-wagoner's Guide to the NBA (Part 1: The Celtics and the Nets)

Current Record: 26-16 (2nd in Atlantic, 3rd in Eastern Conference)

Star Player: Isaiah Thomas

The Boston Celtics are the winningest franchise in NBA history, champions of 17 different seasons. Their past players are legendary, including Larry Bird, who, according to internet memes, currently looks like one of your aunts. Joking aside, Bird’s offensive game was way ahead of his time, despite the fact that he looked like the main character in a stoner movie who somehow stumbles into magical basketball powers. Here’s a few of his highlights:

So even if you’re looking for past pedigree, the Celtics are an easy choice to root for. But their present is very, very promising as well. It all started with a fateful trade by Celtics GM Danny Ainge that sent two fading superstars – Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce – to the Brooklyn Nets for a series of first round draft picks. Garnett and Pierce’s age quickly became a liability for the Nets, causing them to, well, suck. This, in turn, meant that the Celtics new picks would be very, very good. Next season, the Celtics’ Nets pick will likely be the top three of the draft, meaning that they could both be in the playoffs and get the best player in the draft next year. The Celtics have essentially found cheat codes for the NBA.

There’s even more, though. Because Ainge hired “The President” Brad Stevens. The former Butler University Head Coach (and future Indiana University coach) has defied preconceived notions that college basketball coaches do not transfer well into the NBA. He’s shattered all expectations — and, yes, many fans have begun calling him “The President,” despite the fact that he looks one lightning bolt scar away from enrolling in Hogwarts. And then Ainge and Stevens acquired Point Guard Isaiah Thomas from the Phoenix Suns. At 5’9, Thomas was the very last pick in the 2011 Draft, height issues worrying NBA scouts. Thomas has put all those worries to bed, becoming one of the best, if not the best, point guards in the Eastern Conference. Here’s some of the stuff he did in just one game this year:

So root for the Celtics for their past history or their future promise… or, you could root for them because, if the Celtics blowout another team at home, this happens: 

I don’t know either, but I find it hard not to cheer for that.

The Hateable Celtics

Okay, so you want to hate the Celtics. No problem. First of all, let’s point out how insanely spoiled New England sports fans are — and how insufferable they can be because of this. The Celtics, the New England Patriots, and the Boston Red Sox have all won championships in this century. If you were born in New England after 2000, you are not used to having a team you root for woefully underperform. And, even when their teams win, many Boston sports fans still riot.

And, at this point, rooting for the Celtics is sort of like taking the surest odds at a horse race. Sure, you have the highest chance at seeing a return, but in the end, you picked the safest path and are probably a little bitch.

Brooklyn Nets

The Band-wagoner's Guide to the NBA (Part 1: The Celtics and the Nets)

Current Record: 9-34 (Dead Last)

Star Player: Brook Lopez, Jeremy Lin

If you really want to embrace the masochistic side of NBA fandom, the Brooklyn Nets are your best option. The immediate future is looking very bleak for the Nets. In fact, their future quite literally belongs to the Boston Celtics in the form of draft picks. So if you enjoy playing Civilization on Marathon mode, really enjoyed the Star Wars prequels, or don’t get too upset about being stuck in traffic for hours, the Brooklyn Nets are your team.  It’ll be a while before you see a payoff.

Let’s flashback to the fateful 2013-2014 season. The Nets, like any other human being, were celebrating their relocation from New Jersey to Brooklyn, anchored by an ownership partially sponsored by Jay-Z. They wanted to win, and win now. So they made that trade, acquiring Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Thus, the Nets put all their hopes into an aging veteran who once got so hyped about Making the Band he head-butted a hole through the wall. Four years later, both Garnett and Pierce are off the team — and the Nets are still paying their price.

But there is a small glimmer of hope. The Nets recently fired the architect behind many of these trades, GM Billy King. King is a man who once reportedly claimed that his greatest success over the past five years at Brooklyn, was, in fact, coming to Brooklyn (probably not the best retrospective). And the Nets do have a few solid players. Center Brook Lopez has brushed with All-Star status throughout his career. If he was surrounded with a solid supporting cast, he could be a player that leads the Nets to the playoffs — although he’ll never be a true superstar. Lopez’ value is high right now, leading many fans to wonder if the Nets aren’t better off trading him for draft picks or younger players. Lopez isn’t a particularly flashy player, but here are a few of the things he can do:

The Nets also recently acquired Jeremy Lin, who, despite being injury-prone, is a definitely above average point guard (the Nets will take all the victories they can get here). You may remember Lin from a few years ago in the form of “Linsanity”, which involved the New York Knicks’ fanbase collectively losing their shit about a Harvard grad suddenly – and temporarily –  becoming the best player in the NBA. Or you could remember him from his video game fandom, once commenting that DOTA 2 was “more than just a game,” proving that, yes, E-Sports, too, will be full of overused cliches.  The tandem of Lopez and Lin, if healthy and surrounded by merely average players, could, at the very least, lift the Nets out of last place. And that’s about the best the Nets can hope for now.

The Hateable Nets

Let’s talk about their horrible team name: the Nets. Really? You are going to name your team after a net? A piece of fabric? So if Brooklyn gets an NFL team, they’ll be named the Brooklyn End Zones? If they get an MLS team they’ll be named the Brooklyn… goals? Or maybe we’ll have two Nets teams? As you may tell, this name makes me irrationally angry. It doesn’t make any sense at all. Allegedly, the then-New Jersey Nets once almost changed their name to the Swamp Dragons. Despite “Swamp Dragon,” sounding like a euphemism for something you could only find in New Jersey, the name is miles better than the Nets. A Swamp Dragon is a thousand times more entertaining than something that hangs from a basketball rim.

And you should not root for the Nets because you’re cheering is rewarding failure. It’s like giving a participation trophy to a NBA team or literally shooting yourself in the foot. Why root for a team that screwed up so colossally bad for the past five years? Better yet, why root for a team that does not yet have a light at the end of the tunnel? I suppose that if you are one of the many members of the burgeoning Hipster community in Brooklyn, rooting for the Nets before they become good would be fashionable.

Next time, we’ll tackle the three remaining teams in the Atlantic Division: the New York Knicks, the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Toronto Raptors.

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