PHILADELPHIA -- The Celtics were in a heap of trouble Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center in the third quarter against the 76ers. The offense was stalling, J.J. Redick and Jerryd Bayless were getting open looks and Brad Stevens seemingly had nowhere to turn for help on his inexperienced bench. Instead, he opted for a guy that wasn’t even a permanent member of the 15-man roster: Jabari Bird.
The emergency call-up was actually watching the Celtics as a fan on Tuesday night in Los Angeles when Gordon Hayward went down with a gruesome leg injury. The team told Bird to hop on a plane so he could join the active roster on Wednesday night in Milwaukee.
"I was already packed. I was ready to go to the G League,” Bird said after Friday’s 102-92 win over the Sixers. "We got training camp coming up and my bags were already packed, I was ready to get out of the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like, ‘OK, I’m ready to. Just get me a flight.’"
Bird was likely around for emergency depth, but the No. 56 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft had played just 28 minutes in the preseason. Even with injuries sidelining Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris and Hayward, there were plenty of rookies ahead of him on the depth chart. Yet, Stevens saw something in the two-way player that made him believe he was exactly what the team needed while facing an eight-point deficit in the third quarter.