Celtics-76ers preview: Young talents on display for both teams


PHILADELPHIA – In Boston’s 108-100 loss to Milwaukee on Tuesday, four different rookies saw action for the Celtics. 

At times, they delivered on making some memorable moments while other stretches for them involved making mistakes.

There is a need for Boston to use its younger players, even more so now that Gordon Hayward (left ankle) will likely be out for the rest of the season. 

And while their talent certainly makes having them around a blessing, their inexperience and the growing pains that are sure to come because of that, will at times be a burden for a Celtics team considered by most as a top-tier club with aspirations of greatness this season. 

There is still hope for an amazing season, but the degree of difficulty in making that happen has certainly increased with Hayward’s injury, which occurred five minutes into Boston’s 102-99 season-opening loss at Cleveland. 

And with that, Boston will find itself even more reliant on its youthful players who will be thrust into roles that they may not have necessarily anticipated coming their way this quickly. 

“We’ve got a lot of young guys,” said coach Brad Stevens. “I’m hopeful that we can find the right combinations; we obviously didn’t anticipate going maybe this far into the bench this early.”

The first player off the bench for the Celtics on Wednesday was Abdel Nader. 

Taken by Boston with the 58th overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft, Nader was the D-League (now Gatorade League) Rookie of the Year last season with the Maine Red Claws.

He is one of four rookies who saw action for the Celtics on Wednesday, a clear sign of just how valuable the youngsters will be to their chances at success this season. 

“I don’t want to make the excuse that we’re a young team, but we are,” said Kyrie Irving.

Look at Irving, who is only 25 years old and yet is the team’s most accomplished player when it comes to All-Star appearances (4) and, even more significantly, NBA titles (1). 

They face a Sixers team that has ranked among the league’s more youthful team for years. And that lack of experience has been among the key reasons for them to be consistently among the league’s worst clubs. 

But this season is different on so many levels for Philadelphia. 

For starters, they have a relatively healthy Joel Embiid, who ranks among the most difficult big men to contain and may be getting his wish to play more without having his minutes restricted.

Rather than continuing to double-down on youth the Sixers actually went out and spent some money this offseason, adding experience with former Celtic Amir Johnson and ex-Los Angeles Clippers guard J.J. Redick. Both signed one-year deals, worth $11 million and $23 million, respectively. 

However, Philadelphia is still building around a young core that includes Embiid, last year’s runner-up for rookie of the year Dario Saric, as well as Markelle Fultz, the top overall pick in last June’s NBA draft, and 6-10 point-forward Ben Simmons.

Philadelphia (0-1) comes into tonight’s game having played a hard-fought game at Washington which ended with the Wizards winning, 120-115.

“Good, but not good enough to win” has been an all-too common reality for the Sixers in recent years. 

But the mindset this season?

Very different.

“I don’t like taking positives from losses,” Redick told reporters after the Sixers loss in Washington. “We need to clean up a lot of stuff. We need to be better. It takes a lot to win in this league. We need to figure that out, and we will. We are good enough to do that.” 

Redick added, “We’re not going to try to lose this season and take a bunch of positives from that. we’re trying to win, trying to be in the playoffs this year. That has to be the mindset.”

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