However, Sixers star big man Joel Embiid knows the team on the other side of the court won’t be the usual Celtics squad he’s seen in recent years, with Boston reshaping its roster.
Both Kyrie Irving and Al Horford left the Celtics in the offseason, moves that stung even more with both players going to Eastern Conference contenders — Irving to the Nets and Horford joining Embiid on the Sixers. In an attempt to fill the void, Boston signed guard Kemba Walker, but as Embiid put it, the Celtics lost ‘a lot.’
“I feel like this year is going to be different,” Embiid told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols. “They lost a lot and we got one of theirs, which was a big piece for them. They also added a great player in Kemba. We are going to see how it goes but I’m interested in the matchup. I feel like we have a pretty good chance to come out on top.”
Embiid said he was shocked by the shakeup from a team that finished with 49 wins a year ago.
“I was surprised,” Embiid said. “Boston let one of their key guys go, to their rivals, and then also lost another guy that was good for them.”
Joel Embiid Will Miss Jimmy Butler in Clutch Time
The Sixers did not go without their losses this offseason, as All-Star Jimmy Butler moved on to Miami. Embiid and Butler built a strong bond after Philly traded for Butler in November of last year.
“It was a big loss. Me and him, we got to the point where we were really close. That’s my guy — my brother forever,” Embiid said. “I wish he was on the team because I feel the relationship I built with him could have gone a long way. Now it puts me in the situation where I’m going to love it. I have to take over.”
Motivated by Playoff Heartbreak, Joel Embiid ‘Tougher’
Embiid came into the season lighter and more focused on self-preservation for a deep playoff run. Much of his motivation came from watching Kawhi Leonard sink a miracle shot in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Cameras caught Embiid crying on his way to the locker room, something he said he was roasted for when he went back home this offseason.
“It’s the competitive spirit of me. I actually went back home this summer and they made fun of me. Africans we are tough — we don’t cry, we don’t mess around or whatever. They were still making fun of me. They were saying ‘You can’t cry. You are African We’re tougher than this.'”
“I still think about it,” he added. “I knew it was a motivation for me to work harder.”
The Sixers are 6-point favorites for the contest against the Celtics and the total is set a 214. Boston has won seven of the last three, but as Embiid points out, the matchup is much different than in year’s past.