BOSTON – In recent years, the Philadelphia brass has been selling their fans on this notion that by being really bad to get really good picks, would eventually pay off with a roster full of elite talent.
While the Sixers are far from being a squad with that kind of depth, but there’s no mistaking that they are slowly but surely heading in a more positive direction.
Nowhere is this more evident than tonight’s game in which the Boston Celtics find themselves hosting a Sixers team coming in with something we’ve seldom seen from them in recent years – momentum.
Boston (21-14) has won eight of its last 10 games which has them currently third in the East. Although the Sixers (9-24) are at the opposite end of the season win spectrum, they come into tonight’s game having won two in a row and will seek their first three-game winning streak of the season tonight.
One of the biggest concerns for head coach Brad Stevens and the Celtics will be how to handle the Sixers’ talented – but very youthful – frontline that includes Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, Dario Saric and Nerlens Noel.
“They just have a ton of interior talent,” Stevens said.
Too much, in fact.
That’s why trade rumors will continue to swirl up until the trade deadline that at least one of the Sixers’ big men will be on the move with the most likely players being Okafor and Noel.
And the Celtics have been linked with both players, although league sources have remained steadfast in believing that Boston has a preference for Noel who grew up in Massachusetts.
Stevens has been consistent throughout his time in Boston in not worrying about which players the Celtics may or may not be pursuing via trade.
Instead he has placed all his attention on coaching the players he is given to work with and lately, those players have been healthy which has done wonders for the Celtics team chemistry and maybe just as important, their overall record.
Core guys for Boston like Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder have all made an impact this season while reaching career marks in a number of statistical categories.
But they’re starting to get more production from some of their X-factors, among them being Jaylen Brown.
Selected with the third overall pick in last June’s NBA draft, Brown has managed to remain relatively level-headed despite the usual ebb and flow associated with being a rookie in the NBA.
He has appeared in all 35 games this season for Boston, averaging 5.1 points while shooting 45.5 percent from the field and 32.5 percent on 3’s.
In the last three games Brown has averaged 7.3 points and 2.0 rebounds while shooting 71.4 percent from the field.
On Dec. 3, the Celtics edged the Sixers 107-106 with Brown coming off the bench to score four points in 15 minutes of court time.
“(Tonight’s) a great opportunity to see how he progresses from Game one against a team, to Game two,” Stevens said. “So there’s always that new experience for guys that are invaluable when you’re 19, and playing a little bit.”
And unlike most high lottery picks, Brown didn’t join a team being viewed as the face of the franchise which in itself equates out to significant minutes from the start.
“He’s doing a pretty good job when you consider we got guys back and have accomplished something,” Stevens said. “We need him to add value to that.”
And even more so than the Sixers, the Celtics are also heading in the right direction as a franchise.