A huge week in pro sports has made life extremely busy (in a good way) for the die-hard sports fan, and tonight it’s just going to get a whole lot busier. Baseball playoffs are far underway, as is the NFL season, but basketball is back tonight as the league kicks off the 2018-2019 NBA season.
After winning back to back NBA Finals Rings, the Golden State Warriors are looking to start hot again in Oracle, while the Sixers look to avenge their playoff series loss against the new-look Boston Celtics.
The new season brings new looks for many teams around the league, with some of the biggest off-season moves and acquisitions coming from the Celtics and the Sixers who matchup on opening night.
Opening Game Preview:
Boston, coming off a 55 win year without Gordon Hayward or Kyrie Irving in the playoffs, are looking like a potential threat to dethrone the Warriors. A big piece of their success rides on the return of their all-star guard Hayward.
Hayward signed with the Celts at the end of his 2017 season with the Jazz, but in gruesome fashion, his year came to a close before he could even finish the first half of his first Celtics game. Hayward is back and set for his return tomorrow night after a long season and summer of rehab.
Coach Brad Stevens met with reporters and, for the first time, admitted that the club would be putting Hayward on a 25 minutes per game limit to begin the season.
Although he will be limited, Hayward said to USA Today’s Celtics Wire that he is just happy to be back. “Just being on the court again after what I went through; it’s going to be a good first-step for me, so I’m just extremely excited,” he said.
With Hayward back as well as Irving who missed the postseason, the Celtics are a force to be reckoned with in the East.
The Sixers, though, will be trying to spoil Hayward’s return and avenge last year’s playoff series loss to the depleted Celtics. The Sixers come into the new season with extremely high hopes and expectations, especially now that LeBron James has left the Eastern Conference.
Sixer Head Coach Brett Brown set the expectations high saying in an interview with NJ Advance Media, “it is our goal to win an NBA Final”.
With Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid leading the way, this goal doesn’t sound as far-fetched as it might first seem. Ben Simmons’ standout year, last year has all eyes on him in the NBA opener.
To follow the NBA offseason theme of change, Ben Simmons has attempted to make some of his own changes as well. Simmons’ jump shot is the weak point to his game, and his stat line shows it. Simmons shot only 30% last year when outside the ten-foot mark, and shot 0-12 from three on the year.
It really shouldn’t shock us then, when Simmons touched on improvements he’s looking to make to his jump shot. After a hard offseason of training, Simmons was disappointed in the process but noted he will continue to work at it.
“I’m not even where I want to be when it comes to finishing at the rim or my post finishes. I’m still getting better at that. Once I’m good at that, then I’ll probably work harder to expand my game,” Simmons told reporters during a press conference.
In other storylines before the season opener, Markelle Fultz has received the nod from Brett Brown as a starter.
Fultz’s preseason performance featured some mixed results but was good enough for him to be named a night starter. The Sixers guard scored 26 points over the first two games while shooting 11-23 from the field. He added seven rebounds and five assists, along with three blocks for good measure.
It will be hard to take your eyes off of Hayward and Kyrie in their return, but if you can, make sure to keep tabs on young Fultz opening night. Obviously excited about the opportunity Fultz said getting the start is, “almost like a pat on the back to myself for all the hard work I put in this summer, but at the same time we have a goal. We have things to take care of.”
High expectations and lofty goals seem to be the theme in Philly, while a night of return and reform seems to take center stage in Boston. I’d say the stage is set for a fantastic opening night playoff rematch.
The Sixers and Celtics open up their seasons tonight at 8 p.m. on TNT.
Photo retrieved from nbcsports.com.