BOSTON – The return of Kyrie Irving (knee) and Gordon Hayward (ankle/leg) to the starting lineup is a no-brainer topic of discussion when talking about the Boston Celtics.
But as we saw last season, the Celtics have some young talent that appears ready to come of age sooner than anyone expected.
Jaylen Brown is trending towards becoming the latest two-way talent in the NBA. Terry Rozier will come off the bench most of this season and seems poised for what should be a legitimate run at the league’s Sixth Man of the Year award. And then there’s Jayson Tatum, a versatile forward with all-star potential.
All will play a prominent role in tonight’s season-opener against Philadelphia at the TD Garden.
The last time Boston’s youthful triumvirate saw Philadelphia, each was playing some of their best basketball of the season.
Terry Rozier averaged 8.0 points against the Sixers in the regular season but increased his scoring output to 19.0 points per game in the playoffs.
Jaylen Brown, in addition to doing a solid job defensively, increased his scoring average against the Sixers from 11.0 points in the regular season to 15.3 in the playoffs.
And then there was Jayson Tatum who averaged 14.3 points against the Sixers during the regular season only to put up All star-type numbers with a 23.6 points per game scoring average in the playoffs.
Here are some more notes and nuggets looking ahead to tonight’s season opener.
Opening night: This will be the 11th time Boston will face Philadelphia on opening night, with the Celtics owning an impressive 9-1 record.
Opening night 2.0: Boston’s opening night success isn’t just limited to what they have done against the Sixers. The Celtics have won more opening day games (44) than any team in the NBA history. And their opening night winning percentage (.611) is the fourth-highest in league history.
Elite company: Al Horford was a do-it-all performer for the Celtics last season, finishing as one of just two players with at least 80 made 3-pointers, 80 offensive rebounds, 300 assists and 70 blocked shots. The other player? That would be LeBron James. Making it all the more impressive was that it was the second straight season Horford achieved those milestones, with the only other Celtic doing so being Larry Bird during the 1986-1987 season.
On the rise: Jaylen Brown was Boston’s No. 2 scorer last season with a 14.5 points per game average. His scoring improved by 7.9 points from his rookie season which represented the fourth-largest scoring jump in the NBA last season.
Big man streaking: Joel Embiid has been a load for the Celtics to deal with scoring and rebounding lately. He comes into tonight’s game having tallied a double-double in eight straight game against Boston, which includes the five-game playoff series won by the Celtics this past spring.