Forwards Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger were selected for the Rising Stars Challenge, the NBA announced on Wednesday.
The game, which will be played Feb. 14 during All-Star Weekend in New Orleans, features nine of the top rookies and nine of the best second-year players. They’ll be drafted onto two teams Feb. 6.
“It’s an honor for them and I think the nice part about it is they can both get a lot better,” coach Brad Stevens said before the Celtics lost to the Philadelphia 76ers, 95-94, at TD Garden. “Good start to their young careers, although I think both of them would like to play better on a night-in, night-out basis, so hopefully that’s just a validation for them and encourage them to continue working the right way.”
Olynyk is a 2013 first-round draft pick out of Gonzaga. He is averaging 6.7 points and 4.3 rebounds over 18.3 minutes per game.
“I’m not in the All-Star Game, so I’m doing as well as some of the other guys in this league,” Olynyk said. “You can always get better, keep learning. It’s still early on in your career, I’ve got a lot to learn. Not only with the game, but the league and how it operates and all that stuff.”
Still, Olynyk was honored.
“Growing up as a kid, you see it on TV, but you don’t really know all the festivities,” he said. “So I’m really eager to see what happens there.”
Sullinger is in his second season after being drafted in the first round out of Ohio State.
He is averaging 12.8 points and 7.8 rebounds over 26.6 minutes per game.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun, you get to see all the old heads walking around that have been in the All-Star Game for about 25 years now,” Sullinger said. “It’s an experience of a lifetime. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
The game marked a New England homecoming for three members of the 76ers: coach Brett Brown, guard Michael Carter-Williams, and center Nerlens Noel.
Brown is from South Portland, Maine; Carter-Williams is from Hamilton; and Noel attended high school in Everett before transferring to the Tilton School in New Hampshire.
Carter-Williams, who also was selected for the Rising Stars Challenge, received an ovation from the Garden crowd when he was introduced in the starting lineup. A few fans started chanting “M-C-W” early in the second quarter.
“Oh, it was great playing in front of everybody and them coming out to support me and I’m thankful for it and I’m glad we got the win for them,” Carter-Williams said after recording 10 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds.
Noel has been out all season after knee surgery.
Brown said the New England roots he, Noel, and Carter-Williams share have helped them forge a close relationship.
“I love coaching those guys,” Brown said. “They’re from where I’m from, so to speak. This is our part of the world. When the Patriots go down a week ago or whatever it was, it hurts a little bit. We talk about it.
“I just feel like there’s a silent camaraderie that they know I’m with them. I hope all my players feel like we’re a coaching staff that’s trying to develop [them]. With those two, it goes a little bit deeper because of our background.”
For Brown, who attended Boston University and attended numerous Celtics games throughout his youth, coaching his first regular-season game at TD Garden was special.
“You can’t say it any other way,” he said. “I had a chance to have a great run on the river. You walk out and you run up near BU and you get flooded with memories of being back here and going to school here.”
Brown still has a thick Maine accent, though it’s mixed with an Australian accent after he lived there for more than a decade as a coach.
Brown, who is in his rookie season with the 76ers after being an assistant coach in San Antonio, said Spurs forward Tim Duncan once referred to his accent as “Bostralian.”
Rondo takes a pass
Rajon Rondo sat out Wednesday’s game, the second of a back-to-back set. It was the second time he has done so since returning after missing nearly a year because of a knee injury.
Phil Pressey started at point guard against the 76ers.
Guard Avery Bradley (sprained right ankle) was sidelined. Stevens said Bradley, who has missed the last five games, would return to the lineup for Sunday’s home game against the Orlando Magic.
Giving up their seats
The Celtics held their seventh annual “Seats for Soldiers” event Wednesday, and about 1,400 tickets were donated by season ticket-holders to members of the military.