At this point, the Boston Celtics are pretty well established as one of the few elite teams in the NBA. Since acquiring Kevin Garnett(notes) in the summer of 2007, they've been defensive stalwarts who know how to grind out wins in the postseason. Oh, and just as their best players were starting to look old and incapable of leading a champion, Rajon Rondo(notes) became one of the best point guards in the league and arguably his team's best player.
In other words, this is not a team you want to mess with. Orlando Magic general manager Otis Smith thinks differently, though, and he voiced his opinion on Monday night after his team's 109-106 loss in Boston. From Julian Benbow for the Boston Globe:
After Monday's game, Magic general manager Otis Smith took a jab at the Celtics, saying, "They act tough. They're not really tough. They act tough.'' The Celtics didn't make much of the comments. "It doesn't matter,'' Ray Allen(notes) said. "That psychological stuff, we know who we are.''
Um, what? I suppose Smith could be referring to Kevin Garnett's penchant for talking trash and then backing down from fights, but that seems like an odd thing to say to a team that just beat you in a pretty high-profile nationally televised game.
The Magic and Celtics have a rivalry, I suppose, if only because the Magic think they have a rivalry with every good team in the NBA. But the Magic haven't exactly owned the matchup -- Boston has come out on top in important situations, including in last season's conference finals. Sure, Orlando won in 2009, but that Celtics team was without Kevin Garnett. Clearly, the Celtics are the more feared team around the NBA. Plus, they've proven they do what's necessary to win. If that's not tough, I don't know what is.
The question here is why Otis Smith would ever decide to pick a fight with a team that probably doesn't even need extra motivation to beat the Magic. Was he just acting out after a close loss? Did he want to inspire his troops by telling them they could beat these weaklings? Did Garnett call him a bad name?
The world may never know. For now, though, let's just settle on a simple fact: Smith is wrong. The Celtics are tough and a really good basketball team.