Boston Celtics rookies James Young and Dwight Powell scored 21 points apiece while making their NBA Development League regular-season debuts as the Maine Red Claws defeated the host Fort Wayne Mad Ants 81-80 on Sunday night at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.
Young, the No. 17 pick in June's draft, finished 7-of-19 shooting overall and was 3-of-11 beyond the arc over 35 minutes. Powell, the 45th pick, grabbed a game-high 17 rebounds over 37 minutes.
With Maine idle now until Friday's home-opener, the Celtics are expected to recall both Young and Powell in time to be with the team for Monday's visit from the Phoenix Suns. The assignment was a chance for both players to get some much-needed game action.
"Just the opportunity to play, the opportunity to get minutes," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Sunday afternoon when asked about the assignments. "Our systems are almost identical [between Maine and Boston]. So when Dwight went up [to Maine] last week for the intrasquad scrimmage, he had no problem assimilating, from a standpoint of the system. We thought it would be better for them both to get live 30-35 minutes of action than it would be to go through an hour-and-10-minute practice."
One thing that should be stressed is that the assignments of Young and Powell are in no way a reflection of the team's lack of confidence in the duo. Players with less than three years of NBA experience can be assigned to the D-League an unlimited amount of times per season. With increased synergy between the Celtics and Red Claws this year, Stevens has said the team will attempt to maximize the benefits of the D-League by getting younger players increased reps that might not always be available with the parent club.
The D-League is an opportunity for players like Young and Powell to showcase the development being made while working at the NBA level. Not only could it increase the player's own confidence, but it could buoy the confidence of the pro coaching staff in them, particularly important should playing time open at the NBA level.
Chris Babb, who spent time with the Celtics last season before being cut in late September due to a bloated roster, added 15 points for Maine in Sunday's win.