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The NBA: Where fans happen

05.11.09 at 5:32 pm ET
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The woman behind the basket was wearing a Marcin Gortat jersey. That alone indicated that she was way beyond what one might call as casual fan. As Glen Big Baby Davis was leaving the court a few minutes after his clutcher than clutch career-making jump shot, she yelled at Davis who was well within earshot: “Hey you fat (rhymes with truck). Get off the court.”

I bring this up not to disparage the fans in Orlando who brought a manic level of intensity to Games 3 and 4. It was truly an impressive display and surely the fine people of Boston have yelled that, and worse, at opposing players in the Garden.

A white-hot crowd is part of what makes playoff basketball so much fun, and for the most part the players are professional enough to deal with all manner of invective that is spewed their way.

Davis was a target or their ire all night. Not the only Celtic to be sure (Kendrick Perkins, Eddie House and Rajon Rondo got it just as bad, if not worse), but after Davis expressed his frustration at picking up a cheap foul and had to go to the bench, the fans knew they had a new target.

It got worse after Davis reacted to what seemed like a routine foul by Dwight Howard on a drive to the basket. “I’m an emotional player,” Davis said after the game and with the exception of a handful of players (Ray Allen, Rondo) the Celtics all feed off emotion.

Add all that into the equation and put it into a game when their season was for all intents and purposes coming down to a final possession and Davis’ end-to-end dash doesn’t seem out of character at all.

That a 12-year-old kid standing courtside got shoved out of the way on Davis’ charge was unfortunate, but it was hardly a pre-meditated act of violence by a “raging animal with no regard for fans’€™ personal safety,” as Ernest Provetti, father of 12-year-old Nicholas put it to the Orlando Sentinel.

Part of the NBA experience is being close enough to see all that emotion up close. That’s why you pay the big bucks for courtside tickets (assuming you’re not a glad-handing CEO with a cell phone attached to your ear). With that, you get the right to say whatever the hell you want, and often without repercussion. But you also shouldn’t be shocked if you’re standing on the tracks when the train comes rumbling through.

Mr. Provetti has asked for an apology and whether Davis gives him one or not is up to him. Know this about Big Baby: Beneath that raging emotion on the court is a guy with a big and kind heart, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he did, if only to diffuse the situation.

But something tells me Davis won’t be getting the same courtesy from the lovely woman in the Gortat jersey, and he’s probably not expecting it either.

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