BOSTON – The Philadelphia 76ers are well aware that the Boston Celtics added two All-Stars to their active roster since they ousted Philly from last postseason. What Philadelphia added to its active roster, however, remains a bit of a mystery.
Or, does it?
Thanks to a pair of Celtics, including one of Boston’s returning stars, the C’s have a bit of inside information on Philadelphia’s most crucial addition: Markelle Fultz.
Gordon Hayward will return to Boston’s lineup Tuesday night after missing all but five minutes of last season. He and Jayson Tatum spent portions of their offseason at the same facility as Fultz, competing on the court with and against him. All three players worked out with renowned trainer Drew Hanlen at Hanlen’s gym in Southern California.
What Boston’s players took from those workouts could very well assist them in their pursuit of a win against Fultz and the Sixers Tuesday night.
The 20-year-old guard enters the NBA’s opening game as an unknown quantity for Philadelphia. The Sixers drafted him No. 1 overall last year, but he missed all but 14 games of his rookie season due to a mysterious injury that has not become clear to the public. He was also benched during the postseason after totaling just 23 minutes of playing time during Philadelphia’s first three playoff games.
Fultz has played against Boston only twice in his NBA career: once during a preseason tilt that featured 12 points, and one early-regular season contest during which he logged six points. Neither of those performances from last season were all too impressive.
However, those two games were also played before Fultz reportedly rediscovered himself during the offseason. With Hanlen’s aid, he found his shooting stroke and regained confidence in his abilities.
Hayward and Tatum saw first-hand what the new and improved Fultz looks like on the court. They made sure to pay attention to what they witnessed, and now they carry that knowledge into Tuesday’s primetime matchup.
“I would say No. 1, just his explosiveness,” Hayward told Celtics.com of his observations of Fultz. “It was incredible to watch the speed that he has, especially if he gets out in the open and in transition.
“And then also his handle,” he continued. “His handle is unbelievable. Like, he was just getting anywhere he wanted on the court.”
Tatum seemingly saw the same abilities while he worked out with Fultz. He gave Fultz positive reviews in August on The Bill Simmons Podcast while discussing Fultz’s progression.
The addition of Fultz gives Philadelphia a trio of top-three picks to build around. He will now partner with All-Star Joel Embiid and reigning Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons. They make up one of the most promising trios in the entire NBA.
Hayward, who could do nothing but watch last postseason’s matchup between Boston and Philadelphia, has great perspective on how Fultz will fit into Philadelphia’s system. He explained how Fultz’s presence will present significant challenges to opponents, beginning Tuesday night with Boston.
“It gives them another person who can attack in transition. That’s what they like to do, is get out with Simmons too,” he said. “Teams that have multiple guys that can get it off the glass and go are really dangerous.”
But that’s not all.
Hayward added, “He gives them another dimension in the full court, and then another guy who can break his man down in the half court and get into the paint to make plays either for himself or for others.”
As much as some Sixers detractors have found humor in Fultz’s struggles, the skill set Hayward described is no joke. He is a significant addition to Philadelphia’s team.
So while Fultz may remain a mystery to the outside world, Boston, thanks to Hayward and Tatum’s offseason scouting, has a keen understanding of what the former No. 1 overall pick will add to the Sixers.