What’s the real-life equivalent of the NBA schedule release? Maybe leaves starting to bud on trees as summer approaches? That’s only great if you’re a summer person. The first flakes falling in the wintertime? Snow is a hassle.
The truth is, nothing compares. For an NBA fan, learning when, where, and who the Boston Celtics play is the perfect way to break up an otherwise dull offseason.
Well, yesterday was the day. After the league spent the past week sprinkling breadcrumbs, they have finally released the full 82-game schedule for all 30 teams.
Let’s take a look at the most notable dates on Boston’s, shall we?
Honorable Mention: Opening Night
The Celtics will kick off their quest to hang Banner 18 by paying a visit to the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on October 25. Opening Night always means more, the games are usually high-energy with the players being eager to get back out on the floor. In each of the past three seasons, the Cs have had some memorable moments in their season opener.
In 2020, Jayson Tatum sunk a buzzer-beating three to down the Milwaukee Bucks in a thriller. The following year, Boston came up short against the Knicks in double overtime, despite a 46-point effort from Jaylen Brown. Then, last season the Celtics blew the doors of the rival Philadelphia 76ers to get their 2022-23 campaign underway. As for this year, there’s no doubt that the Cs will be hungry after coming up short in the Eastern Conference Finals last spring against the Miami Heat.
5. Get ready to learn French, buddy?
TD Garden will open its doors to French sensation and 2023 No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama on January 17 when the San Antonio Spurs come to town. It’ll be the first chance for Celtics fans to see the seven-foot-four teenager live and in person.
By all accounts, Wembanyama is expected to be the best prospect since LeBron James, back when he entered the league in 2003. The Spurs rookie can do it all. He’s got size, defense, shooting, and even ballhandling ability.
He appeared in 44 total games in Europe last season, averaging 20.8 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks per game. While the stats alone are impressive, the highlights are the real draw with Wemby. His one-legged jump shots, emphatic rejections, and putbacks on his own missed threes are enough to put fans in seats for sure.
The Celtics and Spurs don’t have any historic rivalry, so it’s tough to imagine that the Garden will be juiced for this one. But, fans around the league are dying to get a look at the next big thing.
4. A pair of familiar faces
March 1 will mark the first time that Grant Williams heads out on the parquet floor as an opposing player. The four-year Celtic joined the Dallas Mavericks over the summer as part of a sign-and-trade.
Williams had some ups and downs in Boston. One on hand, he scored a career-high 27 points to help the Cs get past the Bucks in Game 7 of the 2022 Eastern Conference Semifinals, knocking down 7 threes in the process. Throughout that series, the former Tennessee star took on the tough task of slowing down Giannis Antetokounmpo. Williams had many marquee defensive assignments in Boston. He spent plenty of time defending the likes of Kevin Durant, Bam Adebayo, and even Joel Embiid.
As good as Williams was for the Celtics, he had some moments that caused some fans to feel he wasn’t worth the payday that the Mavs gave him this summer. Most notably, the “Imma make both” game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. With just 0.8 seconds remaining, No. 12 went to the line and had the chance to help the Celtics snap a two-game losing streak. He began jawing back and forth with Cavs star Donovan Mitchell and was caught on camera saying, “Imma make both,” over and over.
Williams in fact, did not, and the Celtics went on to take one of the funniest losses I’ve ever seen.
At the end of the day, Williams was a good Celtic and should get a nice hand from the Garden faithful.
His new teammate, Kyrie Irving, will probably receive the opposite. ‘Nuff said.
3. An early shot at some revenge
Boston’s home opener will happen on October 27 when they host the Heat. The matchup will give the Celtics a chance at some early revenge against Miami — who they lost a letdown of a Game 7 at home back on Memorial Day.
The Cs had clawed their way back from an 0-3 deficit and were looking to become the first team to advance after falling into that hole. Unfortunately, Tatum rolled his ankle on the literal first play of the game and wasn’t the same after that. He finished the night with just 14 points. Without a full-strength Tatum, Boston wound up getting blown out 103-84, and the Heat advanced to their second NBA Finals in four seasons.
Miami has become a new-age rival for the Celtics, dating back to the early 2010s when LeBron James took his talents to South Beach. James helped the Heat form a “Big 3” consisting of him, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. They had countless battles with Boston’s trio of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen — who wound up joining the Heat in 2012.
A decade later, the two teams are back at the top of the Eastern Conference, having met in three of the last four conference finals. Will they meet in a fourth? Who knows. But they’ll be seeing each other in late October.
2. Big stage, bigger rivalry
Christmas Day is perhaps the biggest stage of the NBA’s regular season. This year, one of the game’s biggest rivalries will be on display on that big stage, as the Celtics pay a visit to the hated Los Angeles Lakers.
The two sides have a long-standing distaste for one another dating all the way back to the 1960s. Of course, it peaked in the 1980s when Boston and L.A. battled it out in the NBA Finals on three separate occasions with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson leading their respective teams.
Though it’s not quite like it was back then, today’s version of the rivalry still has some flare. For starters, just look at the players involved. Boston has an exciting young duo of Tatum and Brown, while L.A. is running with James, a Celtic rival himself, and Anthony Davis, who was heavily rumored to be coveted by the Cs back in 2019.
Last season, it was in full swing. Both meetings between the Lakers and Celtics went into overtime, with Boston winning both. Hopefully, they’re able to keep up their winning ways on Christmas.
1. Homecoming king
Many Celtics fans have been awaiting the date of Marcus Smart’s return to Boston since late June when he was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies. Well, they’ve got their answer.
Smart and the Grizzlies will pay their only visit to the Celtics on February 4, allowing the Garden faithful to shower the nine-year Celtic with love and trust for the first time as a visiting player.
The 29-year-old has played the 19th most regular-season games for Boston in the team’s 76 seasons with 581 appearances. He also ranks 25th on the franchise’s all-time scoring list with 6,141 career points.
Since the Celtics drafted Smart at No. 6 overall in 2014, the has team never failed to make the playoffs. He helped them reach five Eastern Conference Finals, even getting to the NBA Finals in 2022.
The Celtics will undoubtedly have a video tribute prepared for Smart, as they’ve done for returning players for years — even Kelly Olynyk got one. You’d have to imagine that the reception he’ll get from the home fans will be something special.