Individual Perspectives Give C's Unique Excitement for Season Opener
PHILADELPHIA – There’s no question about whether or not the Boston Celtics are excited to take the court tonight for their season opener against the 76ers. There are different answers, however, as to why different members of the team are excited for their season-opening experience.
While every member of the team is giddy to get the season underway, they each have their own perspective, their own story, and their own individual thought process. A couple of those stories and thought processes were revealed at Wednesday morning’s shootaround at the Wells Fargo Center.
Kemba Walker’s is unique, because he joined a brand-new team during the offseason. That new team is very different than the one he left.
The Boston Celtics are the most historic franchise in the game of basketball, and one that demands national attention at all times. In comparison, Walker’s previous team, the Charlotte Hornets, is one of the newer organizations in the league and it lacks the luster to keep it in the national spotlight.
Walker is realizing that difference quickly, because tonight’s game against Philadelphia has been tabbed as a featured contest that will air nationally on ESPN.
“I’ve probably played just a handful of national TV games in my whole career, so this is my first game with them – official game – and it’s on ESPN and things like that,” Walker said after being asked if he joined the Celtics to play on this type of stage. “Yeah, definitely, this is what I wanted, this is the opportunity I wanted, and I’m happy to be here.”
Jayson Tatum is also happy to be with Boston, but he’s already acclimated himself with the national stage. After all, he’s already played in 28 postseason games, including a trip to Game 7 of the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals. Walker, meanwhile, has played in only 11 postseason games.
Coincidentally, Tatum’s playoff experience is what has him extra excited about tonight. He played arguably his best postseason series in 2018 against the Sixers, when he averaged 23.6 points per game. He was also involved in one of the more unique playoff games in recent memory, which was played inside tonight’s game location.
“Every time I come back here I think that I’ve been here a lot in my first two years, and definitely that playoff series that we had,” he told Celtics.com. “I really think about Game 3. That was big. That was probably, if not, one of the most fun games I’ve ever been a part of, and it was one of the toughest games, and we were able to pull it out. That’s what I think of when I come back here.”
He went on to explain exactly what he remembers about that particular game.
“It was back-and-forth, and it was the first time we won on the road in the Playoffs – the only time we won on the road in the Playoffs that year,” he recalled. “I remember (Marco) Belinelli hit that shot and we thought we lost, but his foot was on the line. They cleaned the confetti off the court. That took like 20 minutes. It was just a crazy night, but we ended up winning.”
The end goal tonight is to duplicate that result, maybe sans the confetti. The pursuit of an opening-night victory excites Tatum’s coach, Brad Stevens. What intrigues Stevens the most, however, is his opportunity to survey and assess his team in a real and challenging NBA environment.
“To me, this time of the year, obviously it is exciting, it’s fun, you’re ready to play against other people for real,” he said, “but in a lot of ways, it’s information-gathering. We’re going to learn a lot about ourselves, even all the way through this week, with three games in four days.”
Stevens added that he and the team have an idea about what their best version looks like, but there is no regular-season proof yet to support those thoughts. A lot can, and likely will, change once the regular season begins.
That, along with many other intricacies of tonight’s game, is incredibly exciting. Walker is amped up to play on the big stage. Tatum is looking forward to reliving his glory moments. Stevens is intrigued by what he’ll learn about his team.
Opening Night has arrived. It’s time for everyone to let their excitement loose.