Feb 5, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guardTony Wroten
(8) shoots during the fourth quarter against the Boston Celtics at the Wells Fargo Center. The Celtics defeated the Sixers 114-108. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
The 2014-15 versions of the 76ers and Celtics have ways to go before reaching the heights of their predecessors.
Even though, as we’ve seen in the past with Boston, all it takes is a few trades or free-agent signings to swing a franchise’s fortunes, it appears both front offices are building their teams with long-term championship aspirations in mind.
The 76ers (19-63 last year), as we all know, are at the bottom of the Eastern Conference barrel. Their two first-round picks Joel Embiid and Dario Saric will both miss the upcoming season. Embiid is recovering from surgery on the navicular bone in his foot, while Saric is playing in Europe for at least two more seasons.
The Celtics (25-57) still have Rajon Rondo, an All-Star caliber point guard who appears fully recovered from an ACL tear he sustained in the 2012-13 season. They have veterans in Jeff Green and Brandon Bass. But they are in asset acquisition mode, much like the 76ers are.
Boston’s No. 6 pick, Marcus Smart, looks like he’ll be the heir apparent to Rondo whenever general manager Danny Ainge finally decides to pull the trigger on a trade. Kentucky guard James Young is an intriguing prospect and young big men like Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller are good pieces going forward. Versatile guard Avery Bradley signed a four-year, $32 million contract in July, which adds some depth in the back court.
Both teams are looking ahead and building what they hope are championship teams in the near future. While the rivalry may not be at the legendary heights of Wilt, Russell, Erving and Bird, both teams are still locked in an arms race to become the next great Eastern Conference team.
There is no greater rivalry in the NBA. I’m looking forward to the next chapter.