Just in case you have not been paying close attention, the Lakers and Boston Celtics want you to know that they do not like each other. Exhibition season, regular season or the playoffs, it doesn't matter.
In what has become more than a simple feud, but slightly less than a war, the NBA's two heavyweights slugged it out Saturday night in what was supposed to be a routine exhibition game at the Forum.
Tell it to those guys whose cool never made it to the second quarter.
Two players in uniforms, Maurice Lucas and Robert Parish, plus one who wasn't, Sly Williams, got thrown out of the Celtics' 124-116 victory, found guilty of fighting in a nasty little brawl that claimed several casualties.
Among the victims were a press table that was collapsed when Lucas and Parish landed on it, Dennis Johnson, who hurt his right knee when he bounced it on the table, and Michael Cooper, who cut his mouth when he got tangled in the pile with Celtic Coach K. C. Jones.
Lucas, who is 6-9, and the 7-foot Parish, began the incident when they were jostling for position beneath the Laker basket. At first, they just slapped each other's hands away, but the disagreement escalated quickly.
Television replays showed Lucas elbowed Parish on the chin, and Parish retaliated by throwing a punch at Lucas, who shoved Parish off the court and onto the press table, only to follow Parish there himself.
Lucas said he had position on Parish, but Parish came over his back. "I could have punched him, but I chose to push him," Lucas said. "I guess it (the fight) looked worse than it really was."
Parish, who studied karate in the off-season and may have dislocated the small finger on his left hand during the fight, had no comment.
The Celtics' bench emptied, and the Lakers' did not. Jones said he was only trying to keep Cooper from hurting himself in the pile of bodies.
Jones was told he was seen in the middle of the pile.
"No, no, no, you saw me on the bottom of the pile," Jones said.
Williams, who was in street clothes because of a knee injury, got involved just long enough to be ejected.
"I didn't say nothing; I just got thrown out," Williams said.
Playing each other four times in the exhibition season may be good box office, since all the games were sellouts, but it probably wasn't the smartest piece of scheduling ever conceived, considering how the Lakers and Celtics feel about each other.
"I guess they are still upset about what happened last spring," Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said.
The Lakers and Celtics have been on the verge of something ugly from the first time they played this fall, Oct. 6 at Providence. R.I. There was a hint of what was to come Thursday night when eight technical fouls and 72 personal fouls were called.
Counting last season's championship series with the Celtics, the Lakers have played 10 of their last 13 games against Boston. Their appreciation for each other has dwindled with each meeting.
"No wonder things have escalated," Laker Coach Pat Riley said. "There's a lot of water that has gone under the bridge in the last two years. There is a lot of respect, but I think there's also bad blood."