Sixers, Celtics working to rebuild former glory

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Sixers, Celtics working to rebuild former glory

It might be hard to believe that the Sixers and Celtics are just 20 months removed from playing in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

When the two franchises meet for the first time this season on Wednesday night at TD Garden, they will do so in full rebuilding mode as the bottom two teams in the Atlantic Division.

Long gone are Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams, who made up the core of that Sixers team coached by Doug Collins.

The Celtics have since parted ways with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Ray Allen found greener pastures in South Beach and Doc Rivers is now guiding the Los Angles Clippers.

“It seems like it was just yesterday,” said Thaddeus Young, who averaged 7.7 points and 5.2 rebounds that postseason. “That was a great series, of course. In Game 7 (Rajon) Rondo hit some big shots.

“But this is a new year, new teams with different players and things have changed over the course of time. We both are now in a situation where we are losing teams and basically we are both trying to go out there and battle for wins.”

Rondo has played in just five games this season since recently returning from surgery to repair a torn right ACL last year.

The Celtics point guard is trying to regain the all-star form that allowed him to put together a personal 9-2 run with 3:30 remaining in that Game 7 to give them a series win. Rondo notched a triple-double in that game with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

Rondo’s performance that night was just the latest chapter in the rich playoff history shared between the Sixers and Celtics.

Brett Brown all too familiar with that tradition between the two franchises. The Sixers head coach was a Boston University student-athlete from 1980 to 1983, absorbing the city’s love for its Celtics and tense rivalry with the Sixers.

“What a special era it was selfishly,” Brown said. “I can still hear the NBA music and introduction to the NBA Game of the Week. To travel down to the Garden and be able to see [George] McGinnis and Julius Erving and Bobby Jones and [Andrew] Toney, [Maurice] Cheeks and Doug [Collins] play.

“I just couldn’t believe how Andrew Toney would just kick the Celtics’ tail. To me, he was unguardable. He was just such a one-on-one, triple threat. Rock a step, rock a step threat. He was a big part of my upbringing and my memory of the NBA, more so than the Celtics-Lakers battles.”

Brown hopes the days return when Sixers and Celtics can enjoy that kind of high-level success and rivalry that ruled the NBA’s Eastern Conference for so many years.

“They are two fantastic sporting cities that love basketball. It is ironic that we are on the same path of trying to find that balance of competing and rebuilding,” Brown said. “It is a difficult challenge, but I think it is in both of the programs to do it because they have such a history and rich tradition.”

Sixers-Warriors 5 things: At home, can Sixers hang with NBA's best again?

Sixers-Warriors 5 things: At home, can Sixers hang with NBA's best again?

The Sixers (22-36) host the NBA-best Golden State Warriors (49-9) at the Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m./CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports app).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup:

1. Bummer at the buzzer
Apparently one good last-second shot deserves another.

The Sixers stormed back from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter against the New York Knicks on Saturday. Jahlil Okafor capped off his monster night with what appeared to be the game-winner at the time when he scored in the lane with nine seconds remaining.

That was until Carmelo Anthony drained a clutch jumper over Robert Covington with 0.3 ticks left on the clock to give the Knicks a 110-109 victory. Call it payback for T.J. McConnell's buzzer-beater against New York last month.

While the Sixers didn't get the win, they had to be pleased with some of the efforts they received on the second night of a back-to-back set. 

Okafor finished with 28 points and 10 rebounds. Covington had 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Dario Saric added 19 points and 15 boards.

2. So much splashing
The Sixers will need those type of performances and then some if they hope to keep up with this potent Warriors team.

In case you've been lost at sea since the summer, former league MVP Kevin Durant bolted Oklahoma City for Golden State in free agency to turn the "Splash Brothers" of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson into an entire splash family.

Already dominant offensively, the Warriors have been even better this season with Durant. They rank No. 1 in a slew of offensive categories, including points per game (118.2), field goal percentage (50.0), assists per game (31.0), fastbreak points per game (23.5), offensive rating (114.1) and true shooting percentage (60.4).

If that weren't enough, Durant's length has also impacted the Warriors' defense too. They are first in the league in steals (9.6), blocks (6.7) and points off turnovers (19.2) per game.

Simply put, the Warriors are scary good. 

3. The wild card
Every family has that one person that you're just not sure about at times. They can make gatherings the best night ever or a downright miserable experience.

Enter Draymond Green. 

Green has been on the miserable side of the Warriors' gatherings lately. He shot 1 of 10 for five points and was benched for long stretches in Golden State's win over Brooklyn on Saturday. In the game prior to that against the L.A. Clippers, he picked up a technical foul, trash talked Paul Pierce and went to his preferred kick move on Blake Griffin.

Overall, Green has been his usual solid self on the court. He's averaging 10.0 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.1 assists a night while providing lockdown defense.

The Sixers are fully aware of Green's versatility. The veteran forward averaged a triple-double against them in the two meetings last season with 11.5 points, 12.0 rebounds and 10.0 assists.

It will be interesting to see Green lock horns all game with the surging Saric.

4. Injuries
Joel Embiid (knee), Tiago Splitter (calf), Ben Simmons (foot) Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are out for the Sixers.

The Warriors have no players listed on the injury report.

5. This and that
• The Sixers have lost six straight games to the Warriors.

• With their 112-95 win over the Nets on Saturday, the Warriors became the first team to clinch a playoff berth. It marked the earliest a team has clinched a postseason spot since the 1985-86 Boston Celtics.

• Covington is averaging 17.0 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in February.

• Thompson averaged 36.0 points on 54.7 percent shooting from the field and 45.8 percent from three-point range against the Sixers last season.

Ben Simmons has bone marrow injected into injured right foot

Ben Simmons has bone marrow injected into injured right foot

Ben Simmons had a minor foot procedure to stimulate bone growth in his injured right foot, the Sixers announced Monday.

Simmons had bone marrow injected into his fracture site with the goal of accelerating his healing from the Jones fracture suffered on Sept. 30.

Simmons will likely resume training by the end of the week.

Last Friday, Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo announced that Simmons will miss the rest of the season because his foot has not healed sufficiently.

Combined with the Monday's news that Joel Embiid is now out indefinitely with swelling and soreness in his left knee and will receive an MRI, it hasn't been a fun few days for the Sixers.

Embiid was already scheduled to miss Monday's game against the Warriors and Wednesday's matchup with the Heat.

Bayless update
Jerryd Bayless will have his cast removed next week and then begin targeted wrist therapy and rehabilitation. It has been three months since his season-ending surgery and his wrist has been immobilized since then.

Bayless signed a three-year, $27 million contract with the Sixers last offseason but played just three games this season, averaging 11.0 points and 4.3 assists.

He shot 43.7 percent from three last season. 

No Splitter yet
Center Tiago Splitter, acquired from the Hawks in the Ersan Ilyasova trade, remains out indefinitely while receiving treatment for his right calf strain.