Hidden in the Celtics' 116-93 win over the Portland Trailblazers on Wednesday, March 2, were two debuts. Not NBA debuts, which would have certainly received more fanfare if they were. No, these debuts were a special kind. These were the NBA debuts of Pat Connaughton and Noah Vonleh, both born in Massachusetts, at the TD Garden. After growing up less than an hour from Boston and going to watch Celtics games as a fan, beneath the league-leading 17 championship banners, they returned with their new team.
Connaughton and Vonleh were both able to get some minutes in the blowout loss. Vonleh, who has ascended to a starting role for the Trailblazers in recent weeks, played close to 20 minutes, scoring just six points on 3-10 shooting with five rebounds. The real story, though, was Connaughton. Normally an end of the bench, fringe rotation player, the Arlington, Mass. native received eight fourth quarter minutes. Although the game was firmly in hand for the Celtics, Connaughton made the most of his opportunity and gave the entire section of family friends that were in attendance something to remember.
Via Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe:
On Wednesday night, Len Connaughton stood near his seat in Loge 7, Row 15 at the Garden and smiled as he reflected on that moment that still felt so recent. This time, his son was not standing next to him watching the Celtics; he was warming up on the parquet floor and getting ready to play against them.
“It’s surreal to be here right now,” Len said. “You come in and you see your own kid down on that court.”
Connaughton finished the game seven points, two rebounds and knocked down one of his two three-point shots. While the stats don't jump out at you, it's the memory more than anything. Connaughton was mobbed after the game by family and friends who just watched him play on the court of his favorite childhood team.
I mean there were a million people here just to see Pat Connaughton. Here they are waiting for him after the game pic.twitter.com/6o8c166542— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) March 3, 2016
For Vonleh, this game had a little extra significance. Born in Haverhill, Mass., Vonleh did not play both times he visited the TD Garden with the Charlotte Hornets last season. Despite the less than stellar performance on Wednesday night, it will be something that he and his family will never forget.
Photo Credit: Elise Amendola/AP Photo
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