Philadelphia 76ers guard Markelle Fultz inspired quite a bit of sympathy last season — even most Boston Celtics fans hoped the young guard could figure out what was wrong with his shot and get his career back on course.
Fultz will start Philly’s regular-season opener against the Celtics, and Boston’s biggest trash talker — Marcus Morris, who mixed it up against Joel Embiid during the Eastern Conference semifinals — said he’s happy for the 20-year-old.
“Physicality is going to definitely be different,” Morris said, when asked about Fultz’s debut. “I’m happy for Fultz being able to play. Hopefully he does well, not against us.”
The rest of the Sixers? Morris would understand if they were a little salty after their abrupt dismissal from the postseason in May. The Celtics dispatched Philadelphia in five (admittedly close) games.
“I could see that, because if I knew I was on their side, almost getting swept, I would put some stuff away,” Morris said. “I expect it to be a lot of fire, lot of energy. I feel it’s going to be that type of atmosphere, like playoffs.”
Embiid will be the biggest challenge, both figuratively and literally. Brad Stevens remained mysterious about his opening-night starting lineup, which he said he won’t reveal until before game time. But that starting lineup could include Aron Baynes — one of the toughest competitors against Embiid.
Not that any one person can contain Joel Embiid consistently.
“(Embiid) is a guy you have to guard with a multiple number of guys,” Stevens said. “It just can’t be the guy that’s guarding him in isolation. Sometimes you have to double him and you always have to show appropriate help, so it’s not all one guy. Baynes ended up being the one assigned to him quite a bit, but Baynes will be the first to tell you it’s not just one guy that guards a great player and Joel is a great player.”
However the Celtics matchup, and however the new-look Sixers perform, Boston expects tonight’s game to be informative.
“I think that, because you prepare all year for this and you get ready for a new season, you have the practice games and have this three weeks, we’re all just anxious to play somebody else and see where we stand and go from there,” Stevens said. “One of the things you probably learn sooner than later in this league is that you have 82 of them. We’re going to have a lot of information after tonight.”