Check your bags and find your seat, CelticsNation. The 2015-16 season starts tonight with an Atlantic Division matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers. After a busy offseason and a year’s worth of speculation, projections of 50+ wins, and experts picking the C’s to shock the east by storming out of the basement all jammed into the last three weeks, it’s time to go back to work.
ALL ABOARD THE HYPE TRAIN!
Walking into tonight’s game the Celtics are looking healthy and have their final 15 man roster. Kelly Olynyk will be serving a one-game suspension for demolishing Kevin Love’s shoulder during the playoffs.
Having gone 6-1 in the preseason-- including an ugly win against the same Philly team they’ll be facing to open the 2015-16 campaign tonight-- the excitement level is the highest it has been during the rebuild.
A Rivalry Renewed (?): The Celtics and 76ers have a storied history. An Atlantic Division rivalry that arguably is as important in team history as their rivalry with the Los Angeles Lakers. Having said that… I don’t know if anyone is going to one day tell their grandkids about the time they watched JaKaar Sampson and Isaiah Canaan battle for backcourt supremacy with Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley.
Injuries Galore: The young Philly squad is already limping into Boston for opening night. Joel Embiid, the 2014 Philly high lottery pick, is likely to miss the entire season after allegedly re-injuring his foot during Summer League. Tony Wroten and Kendall Marshall are both recovering from torn ACLs and are described as “a ways away” from returning by Bob Cooney of the Daily News. Veteran big man Carl Landry isn’t expected to return from wrist surgery until early 2016.
The King In The North heads South: New Sixer and internet fav Nik Stauskas is ready to call a mulligan and get his re-rookie year underway in Philly. Stauskas, who has been plagued by a preseason injury, is available for tonight's game.
He joins a rookie heavy squad for Brett Brown that already includes Jahlil Okafor, Richaun Holmes, Christian Wood, and T.J. McConnell, all of whom have a good chance to see significant time tonight.
Evan Turner Post Birthday Revenge Game: Once upon a time, Evan Turner was the second overall pick for a decent Philadelphia squad. He helped to lead the Sixers to the playoffs in both 2011 and 2012 before getting shipped mid-season to Indiana where he could barely get off the bench for the Pacers.
Here’s hoping the usually calm demeanored Evan Turner plays with a state of Rhode Island sized chip on his shoulder tonight to remind his original team why they drafted him so high in 2010.
A Tale of Two Cities: Obviously, I am biased, but the Boston rebuild and the Philly rebuild couldn’t be going more differently. They traded their no. 2 overall in Turner to kick the rebuild into overdrive, and the following year traded their rookie of the year in Michael Carter-Williams to cement it. It’s not entirely different from what the Celtics are doing who have also been trade happy, but the C’s seem so much more sneaky about it.
Tonight’s game may not be the reincarnation of the classic Eastern Conference battles between Dr. J VS. Bird, but I’m totally fine with this chapter being defined as Hinkie VS. Ainge in a front office chess match.
The Game within the Game: Body language is going to be the most fun thing to watch tonight. At what point does Philly start making dinner plans? Half time? Midway through the third?