Two teams that appear to have realistic expectations to win the 2022-23 NBA championship will tip off the NBA season Tuesday night when the Philadelphia 76ers visit the Boston Celtics.
The Celtics won last season’s Eastern Conference championship before falling to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. The 76ers were the No. 4 seed in the East and fell in the second round to the Miami Heat.
In attempting to win the franchise’s 18th championship, Boston features a new head coach (Joe Mazzulla) and a new sixth man (Malcolm Brogdon). This game will be the NBA coaching debut for the 34-year-old Mazzulla, who was named interim head coach when Ime Udoka received a season-long suspension for violating team policy by having an improper relationship with a woman in the organization.
“It’s not an easy timing for him (Mazzulla) or the rest of the staff, but he’s an exceptionally sharp and talented person,” Celtics president Brad Stevens said. “I believe strongly in him and his ability to lead people, his ability to galvanize a room and get it behind him. And his ability to organize and understand all that comes with running a team during a season.”
The Celtics traded Daniel Theis, Aaron Nesmith, Malik Fitts, Juwan Morgan, Nik Stauskas and a 2023 first-round pick to the Indiana Pacers to obtain Brogdon, a versatile guard who is expected to take on a sixth-man role with Boston.
Brogdon, who turns 30 in December, has been plagued by injuries during his six-year NBA career. He has missed 140 games during that span, including 46 games last season.
“(Brad Stevens) talked about me coming into Boston and embracing a sixth-man role,” Brogdon said. “If I wanted to come to Boston, that would be one of the things I needed to embrace. For me, I’ve made a lot of money. Whatever I can sacrifice to get back to that championship level, I’m willing to do it.”
Philadelphia will again lean on reigning scoring champion Joel Embiid, who has finished second to Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic in the league’s MVP voting in each of the past two seasons.
Embiid averaged 30.6 points last season, when he became the first center to lead the NBA in scoring since Shaquille O’Neal and the first to average at least 30 points a game since Moses Malone in 1982.
He’ll be surrounded by holdovers James Harden, Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris. The 76ers also obtained De’Anthony Melton in a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies and added P.J. Tucker, Danuel House Jr. and Montrezl Harrell via free agency.
Embiid said with all the new faces, it may take some time for the 76ers to round into championship form.
“We have a long way to go,” Embiid said. “We’re not where we want to be. Obviously new guys, basically a new team, so it’s gonna take a while for everybody to get on the same page.”
Before the game, the Celtics will pay tribute to the late Bill Russell. The Hall of Fame center helped Boston win 11 NBA titles during his 13-year career. Russell passed away July 31.
Russell’s No. 6 has been added to the parquet floor at TD Garden and has been retired by the NBA, making him one of only three athletes in major American sports to have a jersey number retired across an entire league, joining baseball’s Jackie Robinson (No. 42) and hockey’s Wayne Gretzky (No. 99).