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A healthy 76ers starting line up for the 2020 season. Photo via Mitchell Leff
Oh Celtics fans, it was only a year ago that we sat in the most disappointing seat in the NBA. A starting five of at the very least four all-star caliber players, one of the deepest benches in the league, the heavy favorite to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals, and a couple of young rising stars that could not look more promising were the shoes we found ourselves standing in last September. Yet, we finished the year with an embarrassing second-round exit after barely getting the fourth seed in the standings amongst teenage, locker room drama all while Sixers fans chirped us from the third seed. Oh, how the tables have turned.

Flash forward to today and the Sixers are currently sitting in the sixth seed a few weeks before the all-star break after three straight embarrassing losses to the Atlanta Hawks (127-117), the Boston Celtics (116-95), and most recently the Miami Heat (137-106). In the offseason, the Sixers lost a few very key players such as all-star Jimmy Butler and three-point dagger JJ Redick. Nonetheless, many presumed the Sixers along with the Bucks to be the favorite in the East because of their offseason additions and up and coming talent. While Butler took his talents to South Beach, they resigned Tobias Harris, snatched up Al Horford from the messy situation in Boston, and acquired guard Josh Richardson in a sign and trade situation with Miami.

However, these new additions and rising stars are not working out at the moment. While they did start the season hot, winning 7 out of their first 10 games, they have been extremely inconsistent since, especially on the road. Now, the nonbiased fan in me is forcing myself to mention that they have had injuries throughout the season. Josh Richardson has been sidelined since early January with a hamstring injury and Joel Embidd (as per usual) as been on and off the court all season. However, I do not think this is enough of a justified reason for them being as low as a sixth seed, and rightfully some people are finally starting to question where "The Process" has taken them.
The comparison of last year's Celtics to this year's Sixers is actually quite funny and really ironic, especially when looking at the numbers. In just the starting fives:

2019 Celtics:

Irving - 23.8 ppg, 5 rebs, 6.9 asts
Tatum - 15.7 ppg, 6 rebs, 2 asts
Horford - 13.6 ppg, 6.7 rebs, 4.2 asts
Brown - 13 ppg, 4.2 rebs, 1.4 asts
Morris - 13.9 ppg, 6.1 rebs, 1.5 asts

2020 Sixers:

Embiid - 23.1 ppg, 12.1 rebs, 3.1 asts
Harris - 19 ppg, 6.7 rebs, 2.7 asts
Simmons 16.7 ppg. 7.3 rebs, 8.7 asts
Richardson - 15 ppg, 3.3 rebs, 3.4 asts
Horford - 12.3 ppg, 6.7 rebs, 3.9 asts

With the Celtics having had a much deeper bench last season than the Sixers do now, it should come as no surprise that their individual numbers are slightly better, but if anything that just makes it look worse for their current 6th seeding anyways. The numbers are still pretty damn close and the connections do not stop there, as when it comes to the individual matchups between the two teams this season and last season they mirror each other perfectly:
Speaking from last year's experience, once the disappointment of a season starts to become apparent the questioning begins. What's next? Who's the problem? Do we need a trade? Is it the coach's fault? Well as a Celtics fan, perhaps the funniest part about all of this is they've dug themselves in a hole they would be very difficult to trade out of without giving up a young star.

The ink is still fresh on two deals that could potentially sink the Sixers to a middle seed over the next few seasons if they do not right the ship. Tobias Harris signed a contract this past summer worth $180 million over the span of 5 seasons with no player option. In ditching Boston, Al Horford also signed a major contract with Philly in which he will earn $109 million over 4 years. Both should be considered the most valuable pieces to trade that would even go on the market (as Simmons and Embiid would be most likely untouchable), but their contracts are not team-friendly ones for a variety of reasons.

Tobias Harris is a good player, I'm not denying that. But a $180 million contract with 4.5 years left on it is not one many team can or should take on. Speaking of which, Horford's contract was simply risky from the get-go. Paying a 33 year old big over $26.5 million a year for four years is a pretty awful contract if he doesn't work in the system. Good for Al for signing the deal and this is not really his fault, but alongside Embiid, Horford has really struggled to fit into "the process" for the majority of the season as he admitted himself back in December. Not to mention, both Horford and Harris combined for a total of 12 points in last night's loss to the Heat (6 apiece) while former Sixer Jimmy Butler scored 38 in 28 minutes on the court.

Are the Sixers in a very sticky situation? Absolutely, and it sure sucks as a fan to be within that fanbase in a season like the one they're having. Many are calling for longtime Sixers head coach Brett Brown to finally be fired, thinking that will be the fix. Honestly, who really knows? This is a situation that is the result of a combination of things and I do not think making one move will solve everything with a snap of the fingers.

Now, with all that being said, I really do hope the Sixers turn their season around. No, I am not a secret fan of Philadelphia as there is still no team in the NBA I hate watching more. However, with the rivalry being as exciting and as historic as it is, I want them to be good so we can play them in games that really mean something. I want to meet them in big games so we can beat them in big games. Rivalries are not nearly as fun when one of the teams sucks, just look at the Celtics vs. Lakers games before LeBron's arrival in L.A. The Sixers do not suck, and they are not nearly at the level of the pre-LeBron Lakers, but I want both the Celtics and Philly to reach their fullest potential so we can beat them there. That's what matters in rivalries and competition.

So, in a shocking twist, let's hope the Sixers come back from the all-star break looking better than Boston did last year at that time. It really is only on the road that they are truly awful. Let's see what they can do in the second half of the season, and hopefully, the Celtics can keep up their promising play as well. All leading to an exciting playoffs matchup in which the Celtics come out on top. Until then, I'm still going to laugh at stuff like this (please enjoy):





You can follow Thomas Desmond on Twitter @td_654

Thomas Desmond 2/04/2020 12:44:00 PM Edit
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