SALT LAKE CITY — For a summer league game, Markelle Fultz’s debut had all the excitement he possibly could’ve asked for.
Fultz, who heard his name called first by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in this year's draft, should’ve been headed to play for the Celtics, but instead found himself on the ever-rebuilding 76ers after Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge traded the team’s first overall pick to the Philadelphia 76ers for the third overall pick and future selections.
Given the circumstances — summer league games are glorified exhibitions — it’s difficult to call it a revenge game for Fultz. But even if it counted for something, Fultz says he wouldn’t have put too much stock into it.
With Celtics brass in the crowd sitting just behind the media, including head coach Brad Stevens and Ainge — the man who traded Fultz — it was merely another game for Fultz.
“I didn’t even notice (Ainge and Stevens),” Fultz said after the game. “At the end of the day, when I step between the lines, I see the people on the court — my teammates on the bench and the opponent. I don’t really get into the crowd.”
Fultz, who scored 17 points and blocked three shots in 22 minutes, had a chance to seal a win at the buzzer but misfired on a contested layup as the Sixers fell to the Celtics 89-88.
Billy Lange, Philadelphia’s assistant coach who’s acting as the head coach for the team in the Utah summer league, already sees growth from Fultz — even through missed game-winning shots and losses.
“He attacked it — he just missed,” Lange said. “It’s not a ‘W’ in terms of the outcome of the game, but it’s a ‘W’ in terms of his growth and what we’re trying to do as an organization.”
Philadelphia will play against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday at 7 p.m. MDT.
#HAYWARDWATCH: The summer league should be an escape from the Gordon Hayward theatrics, but it wasn’t for some fans in the arena, who persistently chanted the Jazz forward’s name as the Celtics shot free throws.
Ainge was in and out of the University of Utah men’s basketball tunnel. Whenever he showed his face, the fans turned their chants from “Hayward” to “Stayward.” And, for what it’s worth, Stevens and Ainge were on their phones periodically after Hayward’s meeting with the Jazz wrapped up in San Diego.
NEW JAZZ SIGHTINGS: With a few minutes remaining in the game, Jazz center Rudy Gobert showed up to watch his team play against the San Antonio Spurs. He was accompanied by newly acquired Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio. Both received deafening cheers. Rubio reportedly attended the Jazz's meeting with Hayward in San Diego on Monday.
DEFENSE MATTERS: In summer league, where offense is usually the focus, Fultz wowed the fans by sending opposing guards' shots off the glass with blocks.
"That's my thing, I love chase-down blocks," Fultz said. "That's something that goes unnoticed — how hard I play on the defensive end of the floor."
CHECK YOUR SHORTS: Normally, on a team’s final possession, the player inbounding the ball isn’t the focal point. But Sixers guard Larry Drew II turned some heads, not only because he was throwing the ball to Fultz for a potential game-winner, but because his shorts were on backward.
Since neither the Sixers nor Celtics are technically at “home,” the teams don’t get notice of which side they’ll play on until right before tipoff. Drew was on the court shooting before any of his teammates and missed the announcement.
Quickly, Drew changed his shorts and accidentally put the white ones on the wrong way.
“Nah, I didn’t notice,” Drew said irritatedly after the game. “I just went on the court with the wrong color and they told me to switch.”