I’m not big on this whole idea of forcing a rivalry. Some are, but I’ve always said rivalries just sort of happen and in most cases, are forged from the playoffs.
A reason? Because during the playoffs you see a team a whole lot in just a couple weeks. You have to see their team over and over. Instead of getting ticked at Kenyon Martin one night and then forgetting about it the next because the schedule has made you move on, you have to see him again in two days. You’ve got to argue with the other team’s fans for a couple weeks. You’ve got to deal with that one player on their team that just seems to always kill you (see: Gasol, Pau).
As a result, it’s very easy to hate that other team. You start noticing even the little things. Man, I hate Ty Lawson. Look how he wraps his ankles. So stupid. It’s the nature of the beast. As fans, we take every little thing personally. When some Nuggets fans says something simple and harmless like, “I dunno, I think we’re actually have the deeper bench and probably an advantage at shooting guard,” it’s natural to blow and say, “Gah! Nuggets fans are SO STUPID.” Like I said, it’s life in the postseason. And sometimes, depending on how things play out, it’s how you end up with a rival.
(Let me clear something up though: In sports, the word “hate” is very relative. It’s not real. It’s not like actual hate. It has a whole different meaning. My dad used to always snap at me when I’d say things like, “Ugh, I hate Ruben Patterson. I just hate him.” But it’s not an actual hatred of him. It’s different in sports. You hate him as a player, not as a person. Unless we’re talking about Chris Bosh. Then it’s different.)
The more you hate the team you’re going against, the sweeter it is if you take them down. The more it makes you want to cheer, the more it makes you want to scream DEE-FENSE! at the top of your lungs, the more passionate it makes you about each and every grueling possession. It’s good to hate. In this specific sense, that is.
It’s been covered ad nauseum as to how Kendrick Perkins has changed the mentally and toughness of the Thunder. One thing he’s said is that he figures out a way to hate his opponent. He even goes as far as to make things up in his mind. Lord knows what those things are, but we all need to need fall in step with our scowly leader.
So with that said, let me add a little more wind to this Oklahoma grassfire and help you find your inner Perk. Here are five reasons to get you started with why you should really, really hate the Nuggets.
1. Nene’s hair. Really, it’s just easy to sort of hate Nene in general. He’s got a single name situation going on, he sort of looks like Donkey from Shrek to me and he’s already tussled with Perk. But his hair is just a whole other story. It’s some sort of weird pony-bun thing. Like I said, the more you have to look at it over these next couple weeks, the more you’re going to find yourself saying, “I mean really, what is the deal with his hair?”
It’s also very natural to dislike the other team’s best player because he’s going to kill your team at different parts during the series. And Nene is almost definitely the Nuggets’ best player.
2. Tattoos. The biggest contrast in this series is the ink-to-visible skin ratio between these teams. The Nuggets only have a couple players that aren’t entirely covered with scribbles. Some of their guys — Chris Andersen, Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith, Wilson Chandler — are basically wearing a tattoo body suit every night. I mean, look at this. Just look at it. If the NBA dress code ever included neck tattoos, the Nuggets would have to be contracted. It’s like they’re all wearing mock turtlenecks and we all know how uncool mock turtlenecks are.
3. Trash talk. The Nuggets accused the Thunder of being “cocky” and of talking a bunch of smack. George Karl even said this: “We know what they were saying after the game here. We know what they were saying. We know. I’m not going to bring it to the public, but we know. It gets back to us.” It’s almost like the Nuggets are trying to manufacture their own bulletin board material. Because we know they will get none from Oklahoma City. Just look at what KD said on Jim Rome Is Burning today about it.
“We just play basketball. We don’t do any talking other than letting people know how good a team they are and how tough the series is going to be.” They might be young, they might be inexperienced, but these Thunder know better than to open their mouths. That’s why the Nuggets are trying to pretend they crossed some sort of cockiness line on the court. I do think the Thunder’s playing with a little added swagger and I definitely can’t say whether or not the level of smack talk has increased, but the way Denver is trying to toss it out there to everyone is a bit weird.
4. Pepsi sucks. If you like Pepsi, well, that’s stupid. I just don’t see how anyone really thinks it’s good. And where do the Nuggets play? The Pepsi Center. I DO NOT LIKE THAT.
One of my biggest pet peeves in life is going to a restaurant and ordering a Coke but the waiter says, “I’m sorry, we don’t have Coke. But we have Pespi!” As if the two taste even remotely alike. Point is, I’m not a fan of Pepsi. It tastes like flavored motor oil. Am I reaching here for things to hate? Very much quite possibly.
5. Respect. I can’t be the only one that’s grown frustrated over the past few weeks hearing people rave about the Nuggets and how well they’ve played while overlooking the Thunder. Latest example, Rick Reilly of ESPN.com: “The Thunder, everybody’s cool new kid in class, is about to get a wedgie in front of the whole playground. Since the Nuggets traded Melo on Feb. 21, they’ve been the third-winningest team in the league (.720). They have double-kick-start Tar Heel point guards who can drive, score or feed to six other scorers. Who you gonna guard on the last shot? Nuggets in 7, proving George Karl should’ve been Coach of the Year.”
I don’t have to say it because I’m sure you yelled it out loud within seconds of reading that, but yes, the Thunder did just beat the Nuggets twice in the last couple weeks. Yes, the Thunder did beat them in Denver as well as by an average of 11 points. Yes, the Nuggets are 18-7 since the Melo trade, but Oklahoma City is 20-8 (with again, two wins against Denver).
Not to pick on Reilly here, but this seems to be the general opinion of most. The Nuggets have been handed a large amount of respect — and rightfully earned, no doubt — while the Thunder were mostly overlooked in every power rankings column up until a week ago when OKC beat the Lakers in Los Angeles. Now, the Thunder are gaining ground in this department, but if Scott Brooks is digging for a little extra motivation to add to his pregame speech Sunday night, he definitely has a little ammunition to work with.