The Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics were once among the bitterest rivals in the NBA. Sixers fans like myself got to see the rivalry renewed for a new generation this past season, as Philadelphia and Boston slugged it out for seven games in the playoffs. But once the Celtics won that series and then kept most of their superstars, it looked like the Sixers would be left in the dust again - until Andrew Bynum came along.
Now with Bynum joining the Sixers, the Atlantic Division could be ruled by both Boston and Philadelphia for a little while. It certainly adds even more intrigue to the Sixers-Celtics battles this coming season - especially if Bynum can make Doc Rivers a little nervous.
Sixers coach Doug Collins painted an interesting picture to that end on Aug. 15. He told CSN Philly that while he and Rivers were at the Olympics doing color commentary for NBC, the Celtics coach told him over dinner that "the only guy he really worries about is Andrew Bynum." According to Collins, this was said the day before Bynum was traded to Philadelphia, which made him "about ready to choke" with excitement.
If Bynum worried Rivers while he was in the Western Conference - and facing the Celtics twice in the NBA Finals - how will he feel with him as a divisional rival? With the Sixers now projected to be an actual divisional rival and a challenger to the Celtics, this could be a new golden time for the Philadelphia-Boston rivalry.
Although the Sixers' playoff run last season was largely considered a fluke, they did push the Celtics to the final minutes of Game 7 in the Eastern semifinals - and that was without Bynum. While the likes of Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams are gone from Philadelphia - whereas Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo are all back in Boston - Bynum's arrival at least keeps the Sixers on the Celtics' radar.
It had looked like the Atlantic Division would come down to Boston and the Brooklyn Nets until this deal. But since the Celtics and Sixers already have playoff experience together, and that Philadelphia is now led by a young big man with multiple rings, they seem like more natural rivals. And of course, their long history of legendary battles is a factor as well.
Back in the 1960s and 1980s, it was a given that the Sixers and Celtics would go to war with championship implications. Now a new big chapter in the rivalry may be on the horizon - as long as Bynum remains in Philadelphia and Garnett, Pierce and Rondo stick around in Boston. Given how none of that is a guarantee, this could be a short lived renewed rivalry - but a real rivalry again, nonetheless.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and 76ers fan.
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- Sports & Recreation
- Philadelphia 76ers
- Andrew Bynum
- Boston Celtics