Jabari Bird, who watched the Celtics’ season opener from his California home, played a key role in Friday’s comeback win over the Sixers, writes Taylor C. Snow of NBA.com. Coach Brad Stevens called on Bird in the third quarter to guard J.J. Redick. He wound up playing 14 minutes and rallying Boston from an eight-point deficit to a four-point lead.
Bird never expected this type of early action after signing a two-way contract in early September. But an opportunity occurred when Gordon Hayward suffered an opening-night injury that is expected to keep him out for the season. Bird boarded a plane that night and joined the team in Milwaukee on Wednesday. He is limited to 45 days in the NBA, but the clock doesn’t start until G League training camps open Monday.
“All the way through preseason and training camp, I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he’s got a huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in the preseason practices and his ability to guard on the ball, especially shooters cutting off screens, is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he would step up.”
There’s more news out of Boston:
- So far, the Celtics are decisive winners in the June trade that sent the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft to Philadelphia in exchange for the No. 3 choice and a future first-rounder, declares A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. Jayson Tatum has shined in the early season, averaging 12.3 points and 9.0 rebounds in three games, while Fultz has struggled with injuries, including a sore shoulder that is affecting his shot.
- Shane Larkin was an overlooked signing when he inked a one-year deal with the Celtics in late July, but he had the best plus-minus rating on the team in Friday’s win in Philadelphia, Blakely notes in the same piece. Larkin, who played in the Spanish League last season, has been getting an opportunity because of Marcus Smart‘s injured left ankle.
- Stevens says Hayward is maintaining a positive attitude in the wake of his injury, relays Chris Forsberg of ESPN. Their conversation focused mainly on rehab, and Stevens got advice from Frank Vogel, who coached the Pacers when Paul George suffered a broken leg. “[Hayward is] going to be the best guy shooting out of a chair, with his left hand, with his right hand, perfect his form, and let’s have fun,” Stevens added. “Let’s come up with creative ways to attack this thing.” The coach originally talked about a five-month rehab process, but later clarified that there is no timeline and the Celtics don’t expect Hayward to return this season (Twitter link).