by Lang Whitaker

A few weeks ago, a few minutes after the defending champion Celtics barely squeaked by the Hawks in Boston — you know, the game where the Hawks were missing two of their best players, had two other players in foul trouble all night — and then celebrated as though they’d dominated the 1996-97 Bulls, I got a text from a friend, a Hawks fan, with a simple query:

“Quick question: If you could punch any member of the Celtics in the stomach without any ramifications, who would you want to punch?”

I completely understood where he was coming from. Yes, the Celtics beat the Hawks. But what was with all the taunting and yapping? And it wasn’t just against the Hawks — the Celts seem to get involved in some sort of juvenile dust-up almost every game, from KG mixing it up with Andrew Bogut to the game against the Knicks to the recent 8-technical game against Orlando. (BTW: The Knicks! The Celtics were running their mouths after beating the Knicks!)

I wondered if perhaps I was just exaggerating the situation, if maybe the Celtics just seemed to be more vocal and obtuse than most NBA teams only because they are the champs and by definition every team is amped to play against Boston, so the games may have a tendency to get more emotional than normal.

So over the last week or so I talked/emailed/texted with a handful of NBA folk, including several NBA players, and I asked them all a simple question: Which NBA team talks the most trash?

The winner, decisively, was the Boston Celtics. In fact, it was a unanimous vote — every person I contacted said the Boston Celtics talk more trash than any team in the NBA. (And FWIW, I’m told Kendrick Perkins talks almost as much or more than KG.)

I’m almost positive that electing Boston as the most talkative team is partly driven by jealousy from players on other teams, who probably wish they were on a team as good as the Celts. But it’s also rooted in fact: The Celts talk a lot, apparently more than any other team in the NBA.

Have the Celtics earned the right to talk more trash than any team in the NBA? Or should the Celts act like they’ve been there before?

• After Sam Mitchell caught the axe up in Toronto, I spoke to someone who knows about such things and asked if Jay Triano was going to hang in there long-term and keep the head coaching gig past this season.

“I think he has a shot,” I was told. “He’s up against a brick wall in that they expect this team, which is a bad team, to make the Playoffs. When they don’t they’re going to have to blame someone. I can see it being Triano long term, though, because Bryan Colangelo wants someone he can control. We will see.”

Yes we will.

• A couple of things to say regarding the Brandon Jennings/Ricky Rubio match-up I attended.

Today our own Jeff Fox wonders who’s the better of the two, Ricky or Brandon, and to me it’s fairly obvious that Ricky’s the better player of the two, even if judging only be experience. Brandon’s a better scorer, yes, but Ricky’s a better all-around player, at least right now he is.

And addressing some comments in that post I did after seeing them play against each other

Tzvi wrote: “There is a big difference between covering some Euro-league player and CP3. When B-Jenn does that — as Ricky has — then we can compare the two. Until then, one is proven, the other? The other has proven that David Stern doesn’t control the world, but he hasn’t proven his game. Props on the piece.”

Understood, but to me, by playing against Ricky Rubio, even if it wasn’t for an entire game, Brandon was proving himself. Right? If Ricky’s proven by virtue of playing in the gold medal game, then guys can be proven by playing against Ricky, no?

And to be honest, I don’t need to see either guy “prove” himself. I saw Ricky in person for the first time nearly two years ago and knew immediately that the kid could ball. And the same goes for Brandon.

Captain America asked: “Lang, would you spent a number one on either player? (FWIW ESPN had Ricky as a number one)”

To me that depends on who else is in the Draft with these guys. Brandon would be tougher for me to take number one overall, because he still needs to learn how to really run a team and a game, though to defend Brandon, he still really hasn’t had a chance to do that with Roma (they just got a new coach and Brandon is playing a lot of two guard for Roma). Ricky would be easier to take number one overall, but his scoring (or lack of scoring) is a little bit of a concern. Offensively, Ricky reminds me a lot of Jason Kidd, in that with his ability to drive he’s going to shoot a lot of layups and also get a lot of three-point shots when he sets up his teammates inside and defenses collapse. That Ricky doesn’t have a picture-perfect jumper just yet isn’t that much a concern to me.

I mentioned that I saw Brandon get at least three or four assists, including two on back-to-back possessions, but the official stat sheet showed him having just 2 assists. Reader Yassi wrote: “On the assist stats in Europe: Not every lame and simple pass to the side with your teammate making the ensuing shot gets an assist. Which I think is way better than in the NBA. Assists are only awarded if YOUR pass actually makes the scoring possible in the first place. Which is how it should be…”

That still doesn’t make any sense to me, because even if a guy is wide open outside the three-point line, he’s not going to score unless I get him the ball, right? So if I give up the ball and find an open teammate who scores immediately, why shouldn’t I get an assist? I found the open player and assisted him in scoring, didn’t I?

Lz wrote: “Nice read Lang, although I sense a bit of typical American arrogance about the blackout (like there’s never been a blackout in the States), your story encompasses nicely the passion, spirit, and soul of Euroball.”

Thanks, Lz, but I really wasn’t trying to be arrogant about the blackout. It was just funny because the arena went completely pitch black except for the advertising boards, and the fans got so fired up about it. Pretty cool, I thought.

Someone asked about Ricky’s Draft eligibility and there was some back-and-forth about it in the comments. The official rule is that a player has to be 19 years old “within the calendar year the Draft is held.” And yes, Ricky will still be 18 when the 2009 Draft rolls around. HOWEVA!, he’ll turn 19 in December of 2009, so he makes it through that clause.

• According to he always awesome Media Takeout, Baron has a new girlfriend.

• And you want to know why Dr. J is still called the Doctor? Check out his wife here. Play on, playa.

• Don’t know if you guys saw Marvin Williams in the Cavs game — he actually did a really good job defending LeBron as the Hawks stopped the Cleveland winning streak — but Marv came out with what looks like a Mohawk. So I emailed him yesterday for clarification: Is Marv now wearing a Mohawk?

“HAHAHA!” Marv wrote. “You know it! Something a little different, something fun.”

Glad we got that cleared up. That picture on the left is the best I could find…

• BTW, how good is LeBron James? On Saturday night I was watching the Hawks/Cavs game and I just kept noticing over and over that Marvin was doing a great job defending LeBron. I even wrote down in my notes that it might be the best defensive game I’ve ever seen Marvin play.

And LeBron still finished with 33 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds and 4 steals.

• Hopefully my next SLAM trip will be to here. They gotta get an NBA team in Dubai eventually, right?

• You guys may already know that we’re big fans of the “Flight of the Conchords” TV show here in the SLAM Dome (well, Ben and I are). It’s usually great, funny, silly TV. And here’s a funny interview with the two of them. And to be honest, I had no idea that there is currently a taco shell shortage in New Zealand…