Celtics

Celtics, Sixers set to renew rivalry on opening night and Christmas Day

Celtics, Sixers set to renew rivalry on opening night and Christmas Day

BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics will go into this season as one of the NBA's must-see teams.

Celtics fans won't have to wait long to see them in action as Boston will face the Philadelphia 76ers in the first game of the NBA's 2018-19 season at the TD Garden on Oct. 16 at 8 p.m.

That game will be followed by a Western Conference tilt between the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder at 10:30 p.m. ET.

Boston's opening night matchup with Philadelphia will be the first of what's shaping up to be a highly-anticipated series of games between these two Eastern Conference heavyweights, who met in the second round of the playoffs last season.

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Being the first game of the regular season is certainly a big deal for any team, a clear indication of how a franchise is perceived not only in their respective market but also throughout the NBA landscape.

But an even more telling measuring stick lies in the opportunity to play in front of a national audience on Christmas Day, something the Celtics will once again do this year.

And the opponent?

Those same opening-night Sixers, who are considered by many as the biggest threat to Boston and its pursuit of Eastern Conference supremacy.

Boston won three of the four regular-season matchups last season against the Sixers and only needed five games to finish off Philly in the playoffs.

But as that playoff series wore on, it was clear that these two franchises, once bitter rivals in the East, were trending towards that bad blood returning.

Go back to their regular season matchup in London in January, a 114-103 Celtics comeback victory after falling behind by as many as 22 points.

One of the more memorable moments in that game came in the fourth quarter when Ben Simmons set a hard screen on Marcus Morris that sent the Celtics small forward falling to the ground.

Morris immediately jumped to his feet and began charging towards Simmons, resulting in players from both teams standing in between the two, to prevent the incidence from escalating into something bigger.

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And during their playoff series, Simmons was once again at the center of attention.

After struggling in Boston's Game 1 win, Simmons said afterwards that he needed to be "more aggressive" in the next game.

But the Celtics had other plans, limiting him to just one point in 31 minutes of court time which was more than enough for Boston to win and take a commanding 2-0 series lead and for the social media trolls out there, resulting in one of the more memorable memes of the NBA season.

Joel Embiid is coming off an All-Star season and has talked both publicly and privately about believing he'll be in the league MVP conversation this season.

But the Celtics' defense against Embiid was a multi-pronged approach last season, and the two key pieces in that attack -- Al Horford and Aron Baynes -- are both back in the fold.

Other games of note on Christmas Day include the LeBron James-led Los Angleles Lakers taking on the Warriors; the Milwaukee Bucks and their MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo facing the New York Knicks and Kristaps Porzingis at Madison Square Garden; also, the Utah Jazz and Portland Trail Blazers will play, and the Oklahoma City Thunder will square off against the Houston Rockets who now include former Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony.

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Grant Williams confirms new Celtics jersey number on Instagram story

Grant Williams confirms new Celtics jersey number on Instagram story

The Boston Celtics' roster is starting to take shape, which means one thing: It's time for the rookies to pick their real jersey numbers.

Grant Williams, who originally was assigned No. 40 with the Celtics, had digit decisions on the mind early Monday morning -- and may have settled on a choice.

Here's a screenshot from the No. 22 overall' pick's Instagram story:

Williams wore No. 2 at Tennessee, but that's not an option in Boston, where No. 2 is retired for legendary team president and coach Red Auerbach. It sounds like Williams is intent on taking No. 12, though.

That number is certainly available after Terry Rozier signed with the Charlotte Hornets in free agency this summer. No. 12 has gotten quite the use, too: 33 players have worn the number -- including Jerry Sichting, Dominique Wilkins, Chris Herren and Ricky Davis -- making it the most-used number in team history.

Williams played well enough in NBA Summer League to earn himself an official contract with Boston, and it seems he's ready to become a "real" member of the team by snagging the uniform of his choosing.

UPDATE (Wednesday, July 17, 3 p.m. ET): Williams indeed will wear No. 12 for the Celtics this season, according to the latest update on his Instagram story.

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Enes Kanter played reporter to ask Kemba Walker an important question

Enes Kanter played reporter to ask Kemba Walker an important question

Enes Kanter is a man of diverse interests ... one of which includes grilling his new teammate.

The Boston Celtics introduced Kanter and Kemba Walker at a press conference Wednesday that was followed by breakout sessions with reporters. And just as Walker's scrum was wrapping up, a certain 6-foot-11 big man lobbed one final question from the back.

"One question, Kemba: How much are you going to pass me the ball?" Kanter said jokingly.

Kanter's bit temporarily caught Walker off guard, but the point guard quickly recovered.

"Zero," he replied with a smile, before adding, "Just playing, I got you."

Walker averaged 5.9 assists per game with the Charlotte Hornets last season (the second-highest total of his career), so chances are he'll be feeding Kanter plenty of helpers.

The Celtics are hoping their two free-agent acquisitions can mesh well with a returning group of young players led by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who will be ready for a fresh start after a rocky 2018-19 campaign.

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