On Opening Night, the Boston Celtics honored the late great Bill Russell, with a touching ceremony that celebrated his life and legacy, both on and off the court. For a franchise that has its fair share of legends and icons in sports, no one else loomed quite as large as Russell, and the Celtics paid homage accordingly. The evening also marked the official start of several careers in Boston, including veteran guard Malcolm Brogdon.
An outspoken activist himself, Brogdon suited up for his first meaningful minutes in a Celtic uniform alongside his teammates, and the opportunity held some extra weight to it in light of Russell’s ceremony. “It’s great, man,” said Brogdon. “It’s a dream to be able to play for this organization, put that jersey on... in the midst of the passing of Bill Russell and honor him the way we have. It’s a blessing.”
In recent weeks, Brogdon has spoken on his decision to choose Boston as his preferred trade destination, and he’s found himself in a crucial role for the Celtics as their first guard off the bench. It’s not taken long for Brogdon to gel along with his new team, and there’s hope it can only improve as he gets more acclimated.
Against Philadelphia, Brogdon dazzled with 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting to go along with four assists, two rebounds, and two steals over 23 minutes of floor time.
A big factor in the team’s win over Philadelphia had to do with Boston’s ability to push the pace, outscoring the Sixers on the fastbreak 24-to-2. “I think the group that was together last year knew how they wanted to approach this year, and playing with pace is one of those things they wanted to improve on,” said Brogdon. “As far as the guys coming off the bench, me, Derek and Grant, we wanted to be able to push the pace... I think that one of our strengths that the second group can help with is pushing the pace.”
This is outstanding work defensively on Embiid. He catches it in the post Brogdon comes over forcing the kick out, then he comes immediately when Embiid gets it on the wing, then Tatum comes in as Brogdon clears out and Embiid is going into his move. Just GREAT team defense. pic.twitter.com/5KMjNzJSxB— Mo Dakhil (@MoDakhil_NBA) October 19, 2022
Beyond just the raw numbers, Brogdon’s presence on the floor completely changed the dynamic of the Celtics offense, creating spacing in addition to his ability to create looks for his teammates.
On how he viewed the floor, Brogdon said, “it’s a simple game when you play with as much talent as we have on this team. Between Jaylen, Jayson, Marcus, Grant...guys that are heady players that play the right way, that wanna win, that can make plays for themselves and make shots. Then it’s up to me. I’mplaying to my strengths. Attacking, getting downhill, creating for myself or other people, that’s my strength.”
Boston’s opener also marked the start of Joe Mazzulla’s tenure as head coach, and while he worked under the tutelage of both Brad Stevens and Ime Udoka, Mazzulla brings a lot of his own coaching ability to the table, and it showed against Philly on Tuesday night.
“I think he’s even-keeled, but very much demanding of us in the right way,” said Brogdon of Mazzulla. “I think he’s found the balance, I’ll explain him as balanced...how to push us, how to motivate us, but also how to step back and let us play and not say too much. We’ll definitely have ups and downs this year. Everybody loses games, everyone goes through adversity, but I think we’ve got the group and I think we’ve got the coach that can handle it.”
Brogdon continued, and said “He’s definitely a communicator, definitely very direct about what he wants us to be executing out there, but he’s also a guy who’s going to, once he gives you his command, he’s going to step back and let you have the freedom to execute it.”