As the NBA season gets underway, the Blue Zone takes a look at which former Blue Devils are making an impact in the league.
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics: After a strong showing in the NBA Summer League, it looked like Jayson Tatum was primed to make an impact coming off the bench in Boston. That plan was quickly scrapped when Boston’s second option, Gordon Hayward, likely saw his season come to a close in the first six minutes of the Celtics opening night loss to the Cavaliers – a game in which Tatum recorded 14 points and 10 rebounds, becoming the first Boston rookie to record a double-double in their debut since Larry Bird did so in 1979.
Tatum was called on to fill the void left by Hayward and responded as could be expected from a rookie playing his first back-to-back with eight points and nine rebounds in a Celtics home loss at the hands of Milwaukee.
After the shaky start, the Celtics have won their last four games with Tatum contributing 15, 22, 12 and 20 points respectively. Down from the 37 minutes he played in the first two games, Tatum has played an average of 30.8 in Boston’s last four games.
Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics: Another Blue Devil and first-year Celtic who saw his responsibility on the team increase is Kyrie Irving. After missing a three to send the season opener against the Cavaliers into OT, Kyrie put up 17 points in Boston’s first home game. This proved insufficient as the Celtics were added to the list of teams steamrolled by Giannis Antetokounmpo’s early season scoring binge.
Irving has averaged 22.3 points during Boston’s four-game win streak, including 24 points and seven assists in a victorious rematch with Milwaukee last Thursday.
In the Boston’s most recent win Saturday, Irving once again demonstrated his ability to score under pressure as his nine points in the final 2:03 lifted the Cs to a 96-90 victory in Miami.
The Celtics will host San Antonio in the TD Garden on Monday.
Brandon Ingram, Los Angeles Lakers: The youthful Lakers have gotten off to a mediocre start, unsurprising given the team's inexperience and 26-56 record last season. Ingram’s performance has paralleled his teams up and downs, averaging 22 points and six rebounds in Laker wins and 11 points and 2.5 rebounds in losses. Ingram registered more shots than points in the season opening loss against the Clippers, scoring 12 points and shooting 3-15 from the field, but bounced back in the Lakers’ second game, scoring 25 points on 65 percent shooting in a 132-130 win over Phoenix.
Ingram showed his willingness to be the Lakers’ go to closer in their win against the perennially contending Washington Wizards last Wednesday. He scored eleven of his team-leading 19 points in the fourth quarter and helped his team to overcome the Wizard’s 10 point lead going into the period.
Ingram scored nine points and grabbed just two rebounds in the Laker’s Friday night loss to the Raptors and pitched in 16 points and one board in a loss to the Jazz on Saturday.
The Lakers will host Detroit and former Blue Devil Luke Kennard this Tuesday.
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JJ Redick, Philadelphia 76ers: Another Duke player on a new roster is JJ Redick. Redick’s number were above his career average in all major statistical categories in his first four games this season. His best performance came in a loss against Houston last Monday. Redick had 22 points to go along with five rebounds and four assists. Redick sat out Saturday’s game against Dallas with lower back tightness and is currently listed as day-to-day.
Redick will likely see a reduction in usage as Philadelphia increasingly shifts its offense toward its young stars, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
The Sixers take on the Rockets in Houston Monday night.
Mason Plumlee, Denver Nuggets: Mason Plumlee has seen a decline in his production relative to last year’s numbers. He has scored in double digits just once this season – Denver’s most recent game against the Brooklyn Nets. This is hardly surprising considering his diminished role on Denver. The Trail Blazers played Plumlee an average of 28.1 minutes per game last season, whereas he has seen an average of 16.2 minutes of action so far in Denver.
The Nuggets currently sit in ninth place in the Western Conference. They will travel to Madison Square Garden for a showdown with the Knicks Monday night.
Luke Kennard, Detroit Pistons: After not playing a single minute on opening night against Charlotte, Luke Kennard begun his NBA career with a strong showing of 11 points in a loss against the Washington Wizards. Kennard has seen his minutes decline as Detroit’s backcourt has proven deeper than expected. Kennard recorded just two points and three rebounds in his second game as the Pistons took down the Knicks. He improved slightly against Philadelphia, scoring six points and pulling down three rebounds in a 97-86 loss. Kennard has seen just two minutes of action in the last three games. The Pistons sit alone atop the Eastern Conference standings after knocking off the defending champions in the Bay Area Sunday night.