BOSTON – For years Kyrie Irving was the ridiculously talented youngster, a basketball savant with the ball whose basketball handles were straight out of some video game’s cheat code.
And these days, the young man on the come-up, Irving, is now the target of just about every point guard coming into the NBA.
Philadelphia’s Markelle Fultz is the latest up-and-coming point guard who will put their skills to the test against Irving, the 25-year-old point guard who ranks among the most decorated players in the league.
“It’s fun,” Irving told NBC Sports Boston. “It comes in cycles in this league. That’s the luxury of being a basketball fan. You get to see generations of guys come in.”
And with each generation, there’s that fine line that exists between potential to be great and the reality that it won’t happen nearly as quickly as the player – or the team that drafted him – wants.
When I asked Irving about the one piece of advice he would give a young player coming into the NBA, he said that’s easy.
“For a young guy, you just have to stay patient,” Irving said. “Understand you have other guys in this league that have been through what you’ve been through. We’re one phone call away. Although we’re competitive M-Fers, I love offering help to as many young guys as I can, and just knowing the intent is to help them out.”
BOSTON (1-0) at PHILADELPHIA (0-1)
Time: 7 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Boston
Radio: 98.5 The Sports Hub
Key matchup: Boston’s Kyrie Irving vs Markelle Fultz
First round picks of the past (Irving) and present (Fultz) will duel it out tonight for at least a quarter of play. Irving looked rusty in his debut earlier this week with the Celtics (9 points, 4-for-11 shooting), so a better game seems likely. As for Fultz, he made his first shot in Philadelphia’s preseason opener against Memphis. But things just got progressively worse before he finished with a not-so-great 4 points on 2-for-13 shooting. Irving has been schooling his Celtics teammates most of the preseason, and Fultz will likely get similar treatment tonight.
Key Storyline: Joel Embiid’s health
He resumed 5-on-5 basketball for the Sixers on Thursday, the first time he has done that since he had season-ending surgery on his left knee back in March. With that said, look for Embiid to see some preseason action as a tune-up for Philly’s regular season opener at Washington on Oct. 18. Ben Simmons had a strong first game (six points, seven rebounds, nine assists with one turnover) for the Sixers, but they need Embiid desperately to get back on the floor and play if they are to come anywhere close to reaching their full potential.
“I gotta be the tough guy on the team, the protector. Knocking my guys down, I can’t have that. It’s gonna be my role to be the bully and I accept it.” – Boston Celtics forward Marcus Morris.