The inconsistent Celtics seemingly have 99 problems, and the Knicks are just one.
Knicks All-Star Carmelo Anthony, on the other hand, might find 18,624 problems tonight.
The Knicks will face the Celtics at TD Garden (capacity 18,624) in the first meeting of the teams since the infamous verbal war between the All-Stars at Madison Square Garden.
"I don't think it's going to be a very warm welcome," Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said with a laugh yesterday about the reception Anthony can expect.
Celtics fans in sports bars around TD Garden were far more blunt.
"Nobody is going to want him in Boston at all. Fans are absolutely upset," said John Borzilleri, a "Celtic lover" from Dedham. "What, is he going to stalk Kevin Garnett again outside?"
Following their on-court Garden spat, Anthony twice sought out Garnett for allegedly making callous remarks about his wife, La La — once in the tunnel to the locker room and again by the Celtics team bus.
"He's a good player but he doesn't act the way he needs to," Borzilleri said. "The way he acts is just totally inappropriate some times, [with] his aggressiveness and his [bullspit].
"He's not an all-around player at all," he added, picking on Anthony's defense. And Borzilleri wasn't alone.
"Fans here don't give a [flip] about anything other than do you give effort. And the general feeling is Carmelo does not play defense," said John Francis Patrick Harrington, CEO of a data research firm in Falmouth, Mass.
"What happened — although a much bigger story I think in New York than here — that was just crazy," said Steve Goldberg of Lexington, Mass. "Garnett mouths off, swears like a trooper but he's the ultimate competitor, and [Celtics fans] stand by him. I think Carmelo is really going to hear it."
Todd McKay of Salem disagreed, predicting a "pretty passive" crowd because Garnett "was absolutely wrong." Alex Bucell of Brighton thought "it won't be a big deal" because New York-Boston animosity has subsided. They were in the minority.
"It's going to be pretty hostile," said Sean Michaels, who lives a Stephen Gostkowski field goal from TD Garden. "Kevin Garnett talks a lot of [trash] and maybe [Anthony's] actions were justified. But he took it too far. Celtics fans are diehard, so they're going to give him grief."
Both combatants said it is in the past — Anthony and Garnett can practice making nice because they will be All-Star teammates next month. Ainge — who was involved in more than his fair share of verbal battles, including the infamous 1983 "Tree Bites Man" incident — doesn't see any escalation.
"As a person who had a few of those in his day, I can tell you they don't linger," Ainge said. "There are too many other things going on for players — other opponents, other games. Each game is a fresh start, a fresh day."
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