There was no getting past it. Ryan Kelly could be the best Lakers teammate Kendall Marshall ever had, and it still wouldn't compensate for two things.
Kelly went to Duke. Marshall went to North Carolina.
Those rivals go together about as well as ketchup and coffee.
"Oh, I've never liked him," Marshall conceded when asked about his reaction to sharing a locker room with a Blue Devil upon joining the Lakers in December. "I didn't care for him at all."
The feeling was, predictably, mutual.
"At first," Kelly said of playing alongside his former college enemy, "I was a little upset about it."
It's a dynamic that plays out in nearly every NBA locker room, where onetime rivals must put aside old feuds and pull on a jersey bearing the same colors.
The Clippers' Chris Paul and J.J. Redick once disliked each other so much as Atlantic Coast Conference foes that Redick struck Paul during a scrimmage at Michael Jordan's basketball camp in Santa Barbara and was forced to apologize to his fellow counselor.
When the Clippers acquired Redick this summer, the former antagonists talked things out at the wedding of a mutual friend. Now they're close buddies.
"Great guy," Paul said of Redick. "Good to know that now. I didn't think so when he was at Duke."
There are lots of old grudges among the Lakers and Clippers.
The Lakers' Nick Young went to USC and Jordan Farmar attended UCLA. The ACC could use an alumni relations department in a Clippers locker room that houses Paul (Wake Forest), Redick (Duke), Reggie Bullock (North Carolina) and Jared Dudley (Boston College). Clippers forward Blake Griffin (Oklahoma) and center DeAndre Jordan (Texas A&M) played against each other in the Big 12 Conference for one season, and backup point guard Darren Collison was part of a UCLA team that knocked Jordan's Aggies out of the NCAA tournament in 2008.
"Any time we watch Texas A&M," Collison said, "I always let him know."
No college basketball rivalry is as intense as Duke-North Carolina. Former North Carolina Congressman Brad Miller once said if Duke was playing the Taliban, he would have to root for the Taliban.
If someone's feelings don't get hurt whenever the teams play, something's amiss. Former North Carolina coach Matt Doherty even said Duke had the ugliest cheerleaders in the ACC.
"That rivalry," Kelly said, "is as good as it gets in sports."
The unpredictability of the series adds to the intrigue.
Bullock won a $100 bet with Redick when the Tar Heels upset the then-No. 5 Blue Devils last month in Chapel Hill. Kelly said he didn't understand North Carolina fans' rushing onto the court afterward, as if they were a mid-major school beating a powerhouse.
"I mean, it's Duke-Carolina," Kelly said. "You can't storm the court."
Of course, Kelly probably won't say anything about it to Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak, a former North Carolina power forward and center.
"No. I don't want to upset him," the rookie forward said. "He's signing the checks."
Kelly and Marshall were in rare agreement last month when they both ribbed Lakers teammate and onetime Syracuse standout Wesley Johnson after Orange Coach Jim Boeheim ran onto the court to protest an official's call near the end of a loss to Duke, resulting in his ejection.
"They asked if I had ever seen him get emotional like that," Johnson said, "and I said, 'A little bit, but not that much.'"
Young and Farmar have been rivals going back to high school in the San Fernando Valley, where Young played for Reseda Cleveland and Farmar for Woodland Hills Taft. Farmar won three of four head-to-head meetings in college and got to rub it in again last month at the Galen Center when he attended UCLA's 10-point victory over USC as Young's guest.
"He didn't want to pay his bet," Farmar said. "I just made him pay for my valet and it was all good."
Redick made the mistake of telling Paul to watch the Wake Forest-Duke game Wednesday, joking that Paul would get to see his Demon Deacons lose. Not so much. Wake Forest won, 82-72.
For better or worse, the results resonate for years. Marshall recalled not only his record against Duke — 2-3 in his two college seasons — but knew off the top of his head that Kelly had won seven of nine games against the Tar Heels.
Becoming teammates with someone you once wanted to beat can take some work.
Kelly said Marshall's college affiliation didn't bother him as much once he realized the point guard was as good a guy as he was a passer. Marshall said he was disappointed to learn that Kelly wasn't so awful despite his disdain for Carolina blue.
"It was kind of a bummer," Marshall said, "when I got here and found out that he was a good guy."
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