Sportsball: A Boston B-ball birthday

The author (bottom, in black), the birthday boy (foreground, center) and friends enjoy the Celtics/Hornets game. (photo by Eric Ginsburg)

Of course he wore a Boston Celtics jersey to the Charlotte Hornets game.

Of course that Masshole, that damn Yankee, had to don his enormous shamrock-green mainsail of memorabilia with No. 34 commemorating the Truth — Paul Pierce, honestly one of the greatest swingmen in basketball history.

The only acceptable reason for this show of true colors: The occasion marked the offender’s birthday.

I’m talking about TCB’s managing editor, Eric Ginsburg.

Eric let me know about this preseason matchup at the Greensboro Coliseum way back on July 22.

“Celtics v. Hornets in GSO, Oct. 6 (my birthday), $20 for okay seats (aka not the s***ty $10 ones),” he texted me. “You in?”

“This shouldn’t even be a question,” I responded, understood to be an affirmative.

Loyal readers may notice I enjoy capturing opportunities to catch major-league, professional sports whenever I can, but typically I only have the chance to see this level of play when I go out of town. Now, the Charlotte Hornets — North Carolina’s team representing North Carolina’s favorite sport — were coming to my hometown to face off against one of the winningest teams in American athletics. There was no missing this; attendance was compulsory.

I must admit, though, before that game, I knew two Hornets players’ names, point guards Kemba Walker and former New York Knicks meme Jeremy Lin. Even then, I was wrong, because Lin signed with the Brooklyn Nets in the offseason. What I’m saying is I’ve never closely followed the Hornets. It’s a weird shame, because I’m a pretty big basketball fan.

Granted, Eric said he couldn’t do any better.

Yet as the game went on, we noticed the Hornets roster flaunted some fresh talent. They’d added Indiana Pacer center Roy Hibbert, a two-time NBA All-Star. I’d forgotten University of Indiana Hoosiers forward Cody Zeller has never played for a team aside from Carolina. Former UConn Huskie guard Jeremy Lamb recorded a double-double off the bench, scoring 16 points and nabbing 10 rebounds, while University of Wisconsin star forward Frank Kaminsky flashed a solid mid-range jumper.

“I feel like this is the most stacked Hornets team since the ’90s,” Eric said as we kept a running tally of great players appearing on the court.

Indeed, the Hornets posted their best season in 2015-’16 since returning to Charlotte — really, their best since the initial Hornets era. Of course, a 48-34 record doesn’t scream “championship threat” to anyone, but they did force the Miami Heat into a seven-game series in the first round of last season’s NBA Playoffs, recording Charlotte’s first postseason wins since 2002.

Eight of us filled the first two rows of a little corner in Section 230 of the Greensboro Coliseum, our yapping and hijinks annoying the hell out of a poor usher seated in front of us.

When the Honey Bees — the Hornets’ scantily clad cheerleading squad — stepped onto the court during a TV timeout in the first half to an odd tune I could’ve sworn repeated the phrase “Death Valley Pep Rally,” we squirmed at the sleazy spectacle.

“So if we go to, like, a women’s beach volleyball game, will a bunch of dudes be dancing around and strip during halftime?” our friend Sam asked.

Eric’s Celtics pride attracted even some internal shade.

The Hornets pulled away during the second quarter as Boston players missed bunnies and veteran guard Ramon Sessions turned up the heat, but the Celtics still made it a game heading towards the break.

“Y’all were up 10, now you’re up only 6?” Eric jabbed at Hornets devotee and friend Camilo.

“You do realize we’re just now playing our starters,” Camilo shot back.

And the starters ended the half strong. Charlotte led 51-43 going into the locker room.

One detail about the local heroes didn’t go over our heads, pertaining to the Hornets’ new baby, the Greensboro Swarm.

“Wait — the Swarm’s logo is just the hornet’s ass,” our friend Cade pointed out.

Sure enough, you can check it out for yourself: The Swarm logo is just the literal bottom half of Charlotte’s signage.

This provided fodder for plenty of unprintable material.

Sadly, I cannot print good news for the Hornets. Perhaps they took their lead for granted, but their main problem wound up being the Celtics’ blitz out of the locker room. Boston scored 40 points in the third quarter; Charlotte only 19, and they’d made up for lost time towards the period’s end.

With nine minutes left in the game, the Celtics established a 21-point lead and trotted out the deep bench.

“Classic Celtics move,” Eric said. “Throw three white guys on the court.”

“Well, y’all are winning pretty well,” I said.

“I know, but it just seems like the Celtics always have more white guys on the team.”

“That’s because Boston is racist.”

“Yeah, true,” Eric admitted with a laugh.

Boston breached the 100-point mark with five minutes remaining, but Charlotte had already checked out. With a final score of 107-92, our Masshole beamed.

But we natives still found the inner strength to be happy for the gloating Yankee.

“I’m willing to accept any outcome in this game only because it’s your birthday,” Sam stated earlier. “This is a win-win situation for you. If the Celtics win, you’re wearing their jersey.”

“And if the Hornets win — cool,” Eric finished the thought.