The Boston/Philly Rivalry is back

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 6: T.J. McConnell
BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 6: T.J. McConnell /

With the Boston Celtics making power moves and the Philadelphia 76ers on the rise, their east coast rivalry may be making a comeback in the coming years.

Boston. Philly. Russell. Chamberlain. Havlicek. Greer. Bird. The Doctor. McHale. Moses. Parish. Barkley.

For the first time since the 1980’s, the Boston Celtics v.s. Philadelphia 76ers rivalry is back. And the NBA should be ecstatic. For years, the NBA has hyped terrible rivalries up trying to see if one will stick like a bad cold to NBA fans. The NBA has failed miserably. Does anyone remember when the NBA tried hyping a Cleveland vs Wizards rivalry before LeBron James turned DeShawn Stephenson into the NBA’s equivalent of NAS? It was terrible and embarrassing for a league that has thrived on rivalries such as Lakers-Celtics, Bulls-Pistons, and Larry Brown v.s. any rookie.

Philadelphia 76ers
Philadelphia 76ers /

Philadelphia 76ers

Even in recent years, the NBA has failed to create rivalries. It seems like every year the NBA puts a Lakers-Celtics game on a Friday night and spends the entire third quarter talking about their history while the Celtics were blowing out the Byron Scott tank machine. The best rivalry in the NBA is likely Warriors v.s. Cavs. These two cities couldn’t be farther apart. The Bay Area vs the Rust Belt? How is that exciting? Yeah, the Cavs have LeBron and the Warriors have the real life equivalent of Mad TV’s Summer Lakers, but how is it a rivalry. The two cities have nothing in common and the rivalry will be dead once LeBron leaves for L.A. or punishes Dan Gilbert to the Shadow Realm.

Now the NBA will have a rivalry to sell tickets. What fan won’t want to see the two University of Washington point guards go head-to-head against each other? What fan doesn’t want to see Ben Simmons throw ally-oops to Joel Embiid over Al Horford? I honestly can’t wait to see Philly’s Blue Collar team take on Boston’s offense first, post defense later team.

It’s going to be extremely interesting to see what Boston does with Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart, as Avery Bradley has already been shipped to Detroit. The Celtics need to clear more space for Gordon Hayward and it’s going to require likely two of the three to be traded. A big part of Boston’s success was their bench depth and the signing is likely going to hurt it significantly. Stevens does not seem fazed by it, praising Boston’s success to Positionless basketball since being hired by Ainge in 2013.

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However, Boston will still be heavily hurt for the future if they keep one of the three. Smart is on the last year of an affordable contract and is due for heavy pay increases. If Ainge buys in too early, Boston will unlikely be a player in free agency in 2018. If Boston waits too long, they could lose Smart for nothing as some team like the Nets will pay him $20-plus million.

If the Celtics keep Crowder, the Celtics will have limited minutes to give Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Although Crowder is on an affordable team deal (three years, $21 million), he should be moved if the right offer comes. They’ve now added Marcus Morris to that mix as well.

To make matters worse, Boston has a very limited front court, only consisting of Al Horford and his limited rebounding skills. What will Boston do to handle Joel Embiid on the boards? With limited cap space and bigs, Boston will have to bring an ’06 Suns-level of creativity to survive.

Now let’s compare teams as of July 7th and see who has the edge in 2017.


The 76ers have Fultz, J.J. Reddick, and not much else. TLC is still very raw and Korkmaz is not an NBA player right now. T.J. McConell is the NBA equivalent of the nice girl your mom sets you up with from home, nothing special.  Stauskas — like, are we serious? Vivek, take it away:

Like the Kings with star Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas, the 76ers have great starting guards, but a terrible second unit. As much as I love Toy Jesus, he can’t handle the wiz kid Isaiah Thomas and crew.

Up north, solid guard play is plentiful in Boston. With all-star Isaiah Thomas, and up-and-coming defensive stud Marcus Smart, and king of the mediocre backups, Terry Rozier, the Celtics are stacked at guard. The Celtics were so stacked at guard that they turned down the chance to take Fultz by trading down in the draft. You can even make the point that Gordon Hayward can play the two and this team’s guards are even more stacked.

Regardless of whether Smart gets traded, Boston easily has the edge in guards


Both teams face questions in the frontcourt for different reasons.

In Philadelphia, health is the biggest concern for the frontcourt. Since being drafted Ben Simmons has played a total of ZERO NBA games for the 76ers, which is the same amount of games Andrew Bynum and yours truly have played for the 76ers. Joel Embiid has played 31 games in THREE years. The 76ers frontcourt is talented but faces huge injury concerns. Simmons projects as what we hoped Grant Hill would be. Saric could become a LaMar Odom type facilitator. Joel Embiid could become Hakeem Olajuwon with three-point range. This team has a very high risk, high reward front court.

The Sixers benefit from having a deep front court bench. With Robert Covington, Amir Johnson, Richaun Holmes and (gulp) Jahlil Okafor, the Sixers can be very flexible. All these pieces will help eliminate any fatigue that Simmons or Embiid have during the playoff push, keeping them fresh for April, May, and potentially June.

On the other hand, Boston’s frontcourt is very top heavy. With Hayward and Horford, Boston possesses two of the most gifted offensive frontcourt players in the league who will allow Stevens to play a wide variety of lineups. Crowder is a nice 3-and-D player as well. However, questions arise of who will play the four or five. Kelly Olynyk has singed with the Miami Heat, so the former Gonzaga product will not be retained. Amir Johnson is in Philadelphia. Tyler Zeller is also gone. If the Celtics want to compete, they need to clear the cap space to sign Hayward soon and find another big. This team will get destroyed by Philadelphia if they play small for too long, especially if Embiid is on the court.

Another concern with Boston is fitting in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum into the rotation. With Hayward and potentially Crowder staying, it will be hard to get both players significant minutes at the three. We might see both players out of position at the two and the four at some stretches of the year. We might see growing pains from both players, which could hurt Boston’s effort to make a splash at the trade deadline.

Because of the talent on the court, Philadelphia has the edge.

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Brad Stevens is a coaching wizard. He could turn me into one of those annoying “underrated” guards that Boston refuses to give up in deals for guys like Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Anthony Davis, Mike Trout, Andrew Luck, Conor McDavid, etc. As much as I love Brett Brown, I have to give the edge to Boston.

Executive Leadership

Boston has a GM who thinks Terry Rozier matters and messed up the Paul George situation so poorly that he won’t be able to be classified as one of the top general managers in the league. Ainge is a great trader and signs great free agents, but struggles to draft well.

Bryan Colangelo is the top GM that is both a snake and wears big collars, but drafts well. So far in Philadelphia, he has done a good job in free agency, but thank the lack of Hedo Turkoglu‘s in the league for that.

I have to go with Ainge on this one, but I think Colangelo could close the gap potentially.

Which team’s fans could win in a fight

This is the most important metric, which team’s fans could beat up the other team’s fans. The team with the toughest fans always win.

I feel like Boston would bring a squad equivalent to Matt Damon and the Afflack brothers in Good Will Hunting.

Not having Playoff Rondo may have helped the Celtics, but you get the point. Like the ’15-16 Celtics, I can imagine their fan base being really scrappy and quick in a fight outside the Wells Fargo Center this year.

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The Sixers fan base, on the other hand, could give them a run for their money. With a historic tradition of throwing snowballs at terrible Santa impersonators, throwing batteries at mediocre outfielders and pouring cheese on the only person to ever buy a Juan Pierre Phillies Shirt (me), the Sixers fans have been waiting for the moment to get back at Celtics fans for trying to fight our fourth string center Jahlil Okafor.

I think the 76ers fans have the edge for multiple reasons. One reason is we haven’t got into any rowdy behavior in a while, so the fan base is more angsty than a Seattle teen named Brayden. The 76ers fans need a great fight to occur and fast. Another reason is that Okafor will be on our side. He’ll be missing nine games with three game injuries. Bryan Colangelo will be acting like Ferris Bueller’s mom when Adam Silver asks why Okafor keeps missing large stretches with ankle injuries.

It’s no secret that Okafor wants to be traded, so you know what will get him traded or released fast, by getting in fights with Boston fans again. The Okafor vs Boston fans rivalry is the 2nd best rivalry the NBA has behind 76ers vs Celtics. I give the edge in this to the 76ers


I believe that this year the Celtics will beat the 76ers in a seven game series with ease. The 76ers are young and inexperienced. The FEDS haven’t played any minutes as one unit yet, so they may struggle out of the gate. However, in a few years, the 76ers will easily defeat Boston thanks to having Embiid, Simmons, Fultz, and a wide array of role players.

Next: Will the 76ers roster changes slow down?

This will be a great rivalry and will help East Coast Basketball reach 1980’s levels of popularity. Fultz vs Thomas. Simmons vs Hayward. Horford vs Embiid. I can’t wait for the first meeting between these two teams.

Trust the Process and Trust the Rivalry Philadelphia.