Celtics

Here's why the Celtics-76ers series is NOT a rivalry — at least not yet

Here's why the Celtics-76ers series is NOT a rivalry — at least not yet

NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-76ers starts at 6:30pm Wednesday with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 7:30pm.

PHILADELPHIA — No matter where you turn for preseason predictions in the NBA, the pecking order at the top of the Eastern Conference food chain is pretty consistent. 

Philadelphia and Milwaukee are interchangeable as the No. 1 and 2 teams in the East, with the Celtics coming in as a solid next best option for the top spot, at No. 3. 

So the Sixers have every reason to feel as though their team, this season, should get the best of the Celtics more times than not. 

But that in itself doesn’t make this a so-called “rivalry,” especially when you consider the main ingredient for any good rivalry is the back-and-forth between teams when it comes to winning games. 

However, the only back-and-forth these two franchises have had in recent years, has been the Celtics sending the Sixers back with a loss over and over again. 

Since Brad Stevens took the reins as Boston’s head coach (the same year Brett Brown became the Sixers head coach), the Celtics have amassed an impressive 18-6 record against the Sixers. And mind you, half of those losses to Philly came in Stevens’ first year when the program was at its lowest point under his watch. 

But this season has all the markings of a franchise whose fortunes against Philly are about to do a 180-degree turn. 

The Sixers went into the summer with a roster of talent that on many levels was comparable to what the Celtics were bringing to the table. 

But that all changed when Al Horford opted out of the final year of his contract with Boston, and subsequently signed a multi-year deal with the Sixers.

The signing was a win-win for the Sixers, who not only bolstered their roster but also dealt a significant blow to one of their chief competitors in the East. 

So on paper at least, Philadelphia has the kind of roster that can make Wednesday night’s game against the Celtics the first of what could be a budding rivalry. 

Because as things stand now, the Sixers are certainly a team that will get the attention of Celtics Nation and many others who follow the NBA. 

But a rivalry game? 

That’s not what this Boston-Philly duel on Wednesday night will be about.

But if the Sixers can win a few more of these matchups, all the rivalry talk between these two franchises won’t be some nostalgic walk down memory lane. 

Instead it’ll be the state of where their in-season battles stand, battles that have been lopsidedly in favor of the Boston Celtics for years that now seem on the verge of swinging in the direction of the Sixers. 

So for most of Boston’s core players such as Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, there has been little proof that this “rivalry” is anything more than a matchup against one of the better teams in the NBA. 

But these Celtics are smart enough to know the success they have enjoyed in the past, will have little — if any — impact on what happens when these two teams step onto that 94-by-50 foot court Wednesday night. 

Regardless of what has happened in the past, Smart anticipates it’ll be a tough, physical game.

“It’s gonna be a dog fight,” Smart said. “You can’t come in looking pretty, you can’t come in scared to get hit. You gotta be ready to get in there, get your nose bloodied a little bit.”

And treat the Sixers as if they are a rival, even if their lack of success against Boston in recent years suggests otherwise.

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Shoulder injury casts doubt on Kyrie Irving playing against Celtics next week

Shoulder injury casts doubt on Kyrie Irving playing against Celtics next week

Brooklyn Nets point guard, and former Celtic, Kyrie Irving may not play against Boston next week -- shocker, right?

The 27-year-old already has been ruled out for the Nets matchup Wednesday with the Charlotte Hornets with a shoulder impingement. It'll be the third game in a row he's missed and the Nets are 1-1 without him. 

Irving has only eight days to recover from the injury before a highly-anticipated return to TD Garden on Thanksgiving Eve. If he misses the remainder of the Nets' games this week, it's more than likely he won't play in Boston -- especially considering he'll be in for a rather unfriendly reception from C's fans.

He certainly didn't leave Boston on a high note after first committing to re-sign with the Celtics, then backing off that in what became a disappointing season where his leadership was questioned and he had well-publicized differences with his younger teammates. That led to his eventual free-agent departure to Brooklyn to join his friend Kevin Durant, who is out for the season after tearing his Achilles in the NBA Finals with Golden State. It appears there are leadership questions in Brooklyn, too, after reports of his "mood swings" irritating Nets' officials. 

Nonetheless, through 11 games, Irving is averaging 28.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 7.2 assists. If he does end up playing against the Celtics, his reception, and how he performs against his old teammates, will be interesting to watch. 

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Clippers, which tips off Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 10 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.  

NBA Rumors: Why Celtics may hesitate to trade Grizzlies pick for big man

NBA Rumors: Why Celtics may hesitate to trade Grizzlies pick for big man

The Boston Celtics have the best record in the NBA through 11 games, but also could use an upgrade at center if they want to be a legitimate title contender.

Turns out they have the perfect asset to swing a deal for a big man ahead of the NBA trade deadline -- or so we thought.

That asset is the Grizzlies' first-round draft pick, which is Top-6 protected in 2020 and would become an unprotected first-rounder in 2021 if Memphis lands inside the top six in 2020.

Boston could dangle that pick to target a top-tier big man, but a "rival" NBA general manager told Heavy.com's Sean Deveney he doesn't see that happening.

"It wouldn’t make sense to move the Memphis pick," the GM told Deveney. "If it’s Anthony Davis then, OK, you change your plans. But there’s not really anyone on the market who is going to get them to move that."

Which big men could be on the market, you ask?

Deveney cited sources who told him the Indiana Pacers "would be unlikely" to trade center Myles Turner, then added the Celtics would be "reluctant" to pursue San Antonio Spurs big man LaMarcus Aldridge if it meant giving up Gordon Hayward.

Houston Rockets rim-runner Clint Capela also has been speculated as a Boston trade target, but as that GM suggested, the Celtics have placed a high value on a Memphis pick that should be a lottery selection and may not want to deal the pick unless they can land an elite player.

There's one wrinkle, though: Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and the young Grizzlies have exceeded early expectations. They have the NBA's 12th-worst record as of Tuesday and could leave the C's with a low lottery pick in 2020 if they continue to improve.

But president of basketball operations Danny Ainge won't unload draft assets without getting good value in return, and it seems good value is hard to come by at the moment.

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Clippers, which tips off Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 10 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.