Jun 03, 2024

Jaden Springer stars in Sixers’ preseason game vs. Boston Celtics

BOSTON — Jaden Springer sat at his locker, and unsuccessfully tried to downplay his performance.

The 76ers’ reserve guard was asked by the team’s social media team how it felt to get playing time in a preseason opener and dominate on both ends of the floor.

“It felt pretty good,” he said following Sunday’s 114-106 loss to the Celtics at TD Garden. “Being able to compete with my teammates, going out there having fun, you know? It felt great.”

Springer’s tone was a cross between being modest and being somewhat uncomfortable with the attention. But he may have to get used to it if he can continue to produce similar performances.

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The 6-foot-4, 204-pounder was the talk of the locker room after finishing with 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting (2-for-2 on threes) along with five rebounds, two assists, one steal, and a block after entering in the second quarter. He got in a nice 23-minute, 38-second run.

It was a performance that showed that the seldom-used, third-year player can provide energy and defense off the bench.

“He made a lot of plays. He really guarded hard, like those guys couldn’t get around him,” coach Nick Nurse said. “He got a lot of loose balls, offensive rebounds. He stuck two threes … had a couple of slot cuts for dunks.

“He played very well. It’s good to see.”

The Sixers selected the 21-year-old with the 28th pick in the 2021 draft. He made two regular-season appearances as a rookie before playing in 16 games last season. Most of his appearances came in mop-up duty in lopsided games.

But he has worked hard this offseason to improve his three-point shooting and to get stronger.

He strength was on full display during a 1:07 stretch in the third quarter. He scored on a powerful two-handed dunk at the 6:08 mark. Forty-six seconds later, he blocked All-NBA forward Jayson Tatum’s dunk. And then he muscled his way to a put-back layup while being fouled with 4:59 left in the quarter.

“These are things he’s been doing all summer,” Patrick Beverely said. “So it’s not a surprise. It might be a surprise to people that haven’t been around. But we’ve been around Jaden.

“My thing is, shoot when you are open and crash offensive rebounds, be the hardest-playing person when you are on the court at all times. He did that today.”

Beverley tells Springer that playing that way in consecutive games provides confidence and is how he’ll obtain a role in the rotation.

“He played his [butt] off,” Beverley said. “I’m proud of him.”

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So is P.J. Tucker.

“He’s my young boy,” Tucker said. “He’s going to be all right.”

Like Beverley, Tucker talks to Springer about consistently bringing the energy.

“I tell him every day, ‘Every time you get an opportunity, you go out [hard],’ ” Tucker said. “It doesn’t matter how much time is left, who’s in there, or what’s going on. Go out there and play hard, play the right way, do the stuff right. And you get to reap the reward from it.

“He played well. I encourage him.”

Tyrese Maxey’s encouragement came when Springer initially checked into the game. Maxey saw that his teammate was a little nervous, and he wouldn’t have it.

He told Springer to just go out and hoop. Maxey made sure Springer guarded Tatum and All-NBA guard Jaylen Brown, the Celtics’ two best players. He wanted Springer to show them what he’s capable of doing.

“And I’m just proud of him, man,” Maxey said. “He’s been working the last three years. I told him, ‘This year, it’s time. We’re probably going to need you. We’re going to need you to step up and play bigger and older than what you are.’ … So I’m proud of him.”

Brown and Tatum came to realize that Springer is a solid defender, one that even elite scorers can’t sleep on.

“We call him a mini-boulder,” Tobias Harris said. “You ain’t moving him when he’s on defense. So he showed all that today, which is amazing to see.”

» READ MORE: Joel Embiid has to be better for the Sixers to keep up with the Celtics and Bucks. Does he get that?

But perhaps no one was more amazed than Mo Bamba, who was seated next to Springer in the locker room.

“That boy was a dog tonight,” Bamba said, looking into the Sixers social-media team’s camera. “That’s what we need from him. He was a straight dog!

“He’s just being modest about it. He was a dog! Getting rebounds, finishing through [traffic]. All that. Dog!”