When the Boston Celtics announced the signings of free agents Tristan Thompson and Jeff Teague each move wasn’t dismissed, respectively, as insignificant, at the time but it wasn’t enough to convince critics to lock the Celtics into a projected top-seeded team in the East.
Whelp, Kemba Walker’s injury had a lot to do with that. But for a player like Thompson, who hadn’t played basketball for over nine months before Wednesday’s Season Opener against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, it was just the perfect challenge for him to make his debut in Boston.
Thompson got the nod from head coach Brad Stevens that he’d be starting in the frontcourt alongside Daniel Theis and Jayson Tatum, prior to tip-off. He got it going right away, scoring the game’s first basket less than 30 seconds in – a 10-footer assisted from Jaylen Brown.
From there, Thompson settled it by making his presence felt on the defensive end by creating stops and jumping the Bucks’ passing lanes. He finished with 12 points, 8 rebounds in 25 minutes.
Tristan Thompson On Celtics Debut: ‘We’ll Build It One Game At A Time’
Following the Celtics’ dramatic 122-121 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, Thompson talked about how great it felt to be playing basketball again and how the Celtics will look to build off of games throughout the course of the regular season.
“Every game goes by, myself and my teammates will get our rhythm,” Thompson said. “They’ll get to know me and I’ll get to know them more. We’ll keep building that relationship. Of course, in practice it’s great but there’s nothing like a game. Me missing the preseason, I missed some of that chemistry on the court but we’ll build it one game at a time and (the Bucks win) was a step in the right direction.”
Due to the league suspending the season because of COVID-19 back in March, Thompson and Teague both watched the league resume in Orlando from afar. But Teague, who entered the game midway through the opening frame, hasn’t missed a step.
His outside touch was electric Wednesday, connecting on a perfect 4-for-4 from behind the arc, Teague led Brad Stevens’ second unit with 19 points on 7-of-15 attempts from the floor. With most of the starters watching from the sideline, Milwaukee extended its lead to nine – it’s largest of the first half – before Teague helped the Celtics rally back.
Jeff Teague On Celtics Debut: ‘It Was A Good First Test’
He scored a dozen of his 19 points in the first half, which eventually prevented the Celtics from falling behind and pulled them to within five (64-59) at the half.
“It was a great test for the first game,” Teague said. “Both teams felt a little rusty and we’re still trying to find ourselves. You can see guys getting tired out there; it was a good first test.”
Thompson says before Wednesday night’s game, it was the longest – that he can remember – he’d gone without playing basketball in a long time and is excited to see things unfold with a new competitive team like the Celtics.
“This has definitely been the longest,” Thompson said. “It felt good to get back out there, especially with a team that has high expectations and a team that wants to compete and win a lot of games.”