Despite unconventional rebuild, Celtics see bright future for 76ers


Despite unconventional rebuild, Celtics see bright future for 76ers

BOSTON -- For years, Philly fans have been asked to “Trust the Process” as the team went about building itself in a rather non-traditional manner.

They stunk, and teams that stink get high draft picks.

And so they continued to stink and continued to pile up the most highly regarded players with the goal that someday, all that young talent would come of age which would transform the organization from a league laughingstock to a playoff contender.

There’s still a lot of time left in this season, but all indications are that the Sixers’ time has arrived.


Philadelphia (12-8) hasn’t had this kind of success this early in years, the kind of success that they are looking to build on against the Boston Celtics (18-4) who boast the best record in the NBA.

And making the Sixers’ rise even more surprising is the unorthodox manner in which they accumulated talent, almost strictly through lots of losses which they then turned into high draft picks that are starting to blossom into superstars before our eyes.

Joel Embiid, who does not play in back-to-back games which is why he’s out tonight, has emerged as one of the NBA’s top big men. He's averaging a double-double of 22.9 points and 11.3 rebounds per game.

And Ben Simmons, who missed all of last season due to injury, has been the front-runner for the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award.He is averaging 18.7 points, 9.5 rebounds and 7.2 assists.

Philadelphia also has rookie of the year runner-up Dario Saric back for his second NBA season, in addition to Markelle Fultz (shoulder) who was taken with the number one overall pick in last June’s NBA draft and is currently out with a shoulder injury.

Boston’s ascension came about in a different manner, but there’s no arguing with the results that we’re starting to see from the Sixers who are four games above-.500 despite having the toughest schedule thus far in the NBA.

“We’re playing NBA royalty,” quipped Sixers head coach Brett Brown, referring to Philadelphia having already played Cleveland, Houston, Golden State and tonight the Boston Celtics.

“Philly’s got a really good team,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “They’ve been really well coached for a long time, and have good young talent.”

Here’s what Boston’s Kyrie Irving had to say about Philadelphia’s rebuild.

“I don’t know if it’s the conventional way, the way things have been done in NBA history but it’s working for them,” Irving said. “They’ve had some high-caliber talent come in that they drafted well and had guys that may not have played their first season due to injuries, stuff like that, but when they’re on the floor they’re pretty effective. Just a great group of young guys trying to develop, and (find) a spot for themselves in this league.”

When asked about Philadelphia’s team and how they came about, Al Horford quipped, “I think it worked out pretty good. Those guys … it worked out really well.”

Horford added, “That’s not the way you want to do it but it worked out great. You have a guy like Joel Embiid, you have Ben Simmons. You just have a lot of great players over there and you bring in some veterans, J.J. Redick, Amir Johnson … all of a sudden, you’re a playoff team. The future is very bright for them.”


Kyrie tells ESPN his move to Boston 'trying at times, but well worth it'

Kyrie tells ESPN his move to Boston 'trying at times, but well worth it'

Kyrie Irving opened up - a little bit - in an ESPN interview with Rachel Nichols in which he reflected on his move to Boston and his upcoming movie, "Uncle Drew". 

Irving was asked how he would assess the changes in his career since leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers after requesting a trade this summer that led to the deal with the Celtics.

"Been a lot of newness, honestly," Irving said. "It's an adjustment in itself. Being with a totally different group of guys, trying to bridge that gap with our group and trying to be my best self with our group. It's been awesome. Trying at times, but well worth it."

With the Celtics in the thick of the race for the best record in the Eastern Conference, Irving said he's pleased with how it has worked out. 

"It was a big chance," Irving said, then jokingly added, "Babe Ruth said it, he swings big, may not miss big, may hit a home run, who knows?

"I'm glad I took a chance on what I wanted to do within my career."

The conversation quickly shifted to Irving's feature-length acting debut in the movie "Uncle Drew" which comes to theaters this summer. Irving said he's always had an interest in acting and has had his teammates poke fun at him when he listed his favorite music as songs from the musical "Rent".

Still, the ultimate goal is raising another championship banner in Boston and raising the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

"It's something I think about every day," Irving said. "I think about it every day."


Brad Stevens looks to revitalize reeling Celtics

Brad Stevens looks to revitalize reeling Celtics

WALTHAM, Mass. – When he wasn’t hanging out with the Boston Red Sox during spring training, Brad Stevens was marinating over tweaks that the Boston Celtics need to make in the final 23 games of the regular season.

This reassessment is vital to the team’s success going forward, which makes a lot of sense considering how Boston limped into the all-star break losing three straight and four of five.

“I told the guys any time they come up short you have to evaluate, you have to learn …”

And the lesson Stevens learned going into the break?

“Our defense, it was just, it wasn’t good the last five games obviously,” he said. “Whether it’s a small sample size, whatever the case may be it just wasn’t good and I thought against the Clippers especially, it was as bad as I’ve seen. So that was a red flag.”

The return of Marcus Smart will certainly help, but Stevens knows having Smart back won’t be the one-stop elixir to all that ails his team currently.

“We just need everybody to play to their best ability,” Stevens said. “I mean, we had good games without him defensively but there’s no doubt he’s one of our best defenders.”

Smart has been one of the top on-the-ball defenders this season and has done so even while playing major minutes.

He has a defensive rating of 98.9 which is tops among all NBA players who average at least 30 minutes played per game.

And while it remains to be seen how Boston will incorporate Smart back into the regular rotation, he’s coming back with the kind of focus and motivation that should bode well for Boston’s chances of getting back on a winning track.

“I’m a competitor and I think everybody in this league, any athlete will tell you when you gotta sit on the bench, it’s one thing to sit on the bench because for something that happened you can’t control,” Smart said. “But it’s another for something you can control. I feel like I let my team down.”

Smart suffered a right hand laceration injury on Jan. 24 when he punched a picture that caused a series of cuts that required 20 stitches to close.

When speaking to the media on Wednesday night, Smart said a piece of glass came close to a pair of tendons that had the glass in his hand been an inch or so in either direction, it could have cause significant damage and likely season-ending surgery.

Having Smart back after an 11-game absence will certainly result in Stevens changing his player combinations up.

But there’s likely to be more changes than just the re-insertion of Smart into the mix.

“We’ll definitely rotate a little bit differently,” Stevens said. “I don’t know if that means changes in the starting lineup but we definitely will have some changes; certainly it will be night-to-night but tweaks from when guys enter the game.”