Kemba Walker’s Celtics debut features a lot of makeable misses – Boston Herald

PHILADELPHIA – Like just about every other Celtic Tuesday night, Kemba Walker saw a lot of promise in the ugliness of his numbers. The looks were good, he believed – shots he’s made his entire career.

The Celtics guard simply could have done without a 4-for-18, 12-point performance in his Celtics debut during a 107-93 season-opening loss to Philadelphia.

“It felt good. Just a little bit disappointed obviously,” he said. “Tough night for many of us, but me personally, I just wish I could have done a lot more and played better for these guys. But you live and you learn. There’s nothing you can really do but try and get better for the next one.

“I thought I got my shots, the shots I love to take,” said Walker. “I thought I got to my spots. I just missed, yeah. … It’s disappointing, just because, kind of routine shots, shots that I work on and shots that I’ve been making over the course of my career. But it’s the first one. Just got to focus on trying to put the ball in the basket as well as keeping my teammates together.”

Not-so-cool Al

Al Horford momentarily lost his cool – certainly more than usual – after being called for an offensive foul where his former teammate, Marcus Smart, executed the perfect dive. Perfect enough, anyway, to prompt official Marat Kogut to blow his whistle.

Horford was incensed enough that he started wagging his finger at Kogut, though he later agreed with the call.

“Yeah, they were fouls, too,” said the newest Sixer. “At the time, I didn’t think they were, but the ref actually, Marat, told me he saw it at halftime. He said that I moved.

“But Marcus does such a good job of flopping, you know, like, of selling it. He’s making sure that he does that. That’s what he does, and when I was on his side, I loved it. I thought it was great. But now, you know, he got me.”

Fresh start

Brett Brown wasn’t exactly gloating, but the 76ers coach was, in a sense, giving thanks prior to the game for what he now has and what they don’t.

“Time will tell. We all have our guess and our hopes, but to (say) we have him and they don’t is a pretty good starting point,” he said of the great offseason acquisition of Horford, who clearly has been passing on a lot of intelligence regarding his old team.

“To communicate with Al and say what do you think, in years gone by what would you have done as it relates to Philadelphia, I ask that question a lot, one-on-one or in front of the team,” said Brown. “He’s fantastic sharing that and we listen. I am just so thrilled for leadership reasons, talent reasons, historical perspective reasons, that Al Horford is a Philadelphia 76er.”

Fond memories

It’s easy to understand why some of Jayson Tatum’s best basketball memories come out of the building where the Celtics opened their season last night.

He not only averaged 23.6 against the Sixers over five playoff games during the NBA conference semifinals in 2018, including 22.5 points over two games in the Wells Fargo Center, and in particular stood out with a 24-point performance in Game 3 – the so-called confetti game, which the Celtic pulled out in overtime.

“Every time I come back here I think about, you know, I’ve been here a lot my first two years, and definitely the playoff series that we had. I really think about Game 3,” the Celtics forward said before the game. “That was big. That was probably one of the most fun games I’ve ever been a part of, and it was one of the toughest games. And we were able to pull it out. That’s what I think about most when I come back here.

“It was back and forth and it was the first time we won on the road in the playoffs – it was the only time we won on the road in the playoffs that year,” said Tatum. “I remember (Marco) Belinelli hit that shot and we thought we lost, but his foot was on the line and they had to clean the confetti off the court. That took like 20 minutes. It was a crazy night, but we ended up winning.”

Of course, Horford – who made the biggest plays down the stretch for the Celtics in that game – is now on the other side. But everything about last night’s game marked a fresh start.

It’s Walker’s first time, in nine seasons, playing on national television in a season-opener. That experience doesn’t get old for any of them, including Brad Stevens.

“I think it’s a challenge every single night, whether it’s broadcast locally on NBC Sports Boston, whether it’s broadcast on a national platform,” said the Celtics coach. “Whatever the case may be, the way the world is right now, people are going to see the game or see the highlights anyway. So I don’t get too caught up in when it is or who it’s broadcasted by, but more so how we need to play. Obviously, first night’s always exciting. Christmas day is always exciting. There are some special ones sprinkled in there.”

Williams back

The Celtics, in need of all available big man help against Joel Embiid and Horford , welcomed Robert Williams back from concussion protocol just in time for the season opener.

Williams suffered the injury after taking an inadvertent Kevin Love elbow to the head in Cleveland on Oct. 15.

“You know it just slowed me down. Couldn’t be out here with my team as much as I wanted to be, out there as I wanted to be,” said Williams. “Availability is the best ability, so I’m glad I should be back from it.

“That’s the worst,” he said. “The protocol is worth it, they just want to make sure you’re healthy and you’re coming back 100 percent.”

Williams can now fit back into the Celtics’ fragile big man rotation. He scored five points to go with three rebounds and a block.

“It’s just a big opportunity to earn trust with everybody,” he said. “New guys, new coaches and just have fun. Get out there and have fun with a great group of guys.”

 



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