Brooklyn and Philadelphia have been growing their rivalry dating back to the 2019 postseason. The Sixers got the best of the Nets in a heated five-game series in the first round that year. Fast forward to 2022 and the matchup is Can’t-miss TV.
Following the Ben Simmons-James Harden swap, the two Eastern Conference rivals enter Thursday night’s contest with axes to grind. Simmons won’t play but the three-time All-Star plans to sit on the Nets’ bench. Harden will suit up and faces Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant – his former teammates in Brooklyn – for the first time. This one has all the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster.
Sixers head coach Doc Rivers is way too savvy to give out bulletin board material. When reporters drilled him on the significance of the showdown, Rivers reminded everyone that nobody’s getting a trophy for winning it. The Sixers didn’t even discuss it during Wednesday’s practice.
“You know, we didn’t even mention tomorrow one time today,” Rivers told reporters. “So tomorrow’s going to come and we’re going to play Brooklyn. And there will be a lot said about it, and then it’s going to go, and it’s over. Tomorrow, there is no trophy given after the game, there’s nothing given except there’s going to be a game.”
Philadelphia owns the all-time series: 119 wins to Brooklyn’s 87. The last time the two squads met – a 119-87 Sixers’ win on December 30 – there was noticeable tension in the fourth quarter. Durant and Joel Embiid jawed back and forth, with both players picking up technicals.
“It’s obviously a different game with everything that’s going on but as far as the basketball part of it, we have to focus on that,” Rivers said. “We’ve had some interesting games with them before the trade, you know – there’s been a little extra stuff on the floor before the trade so there will be just more of that, I think that’s good.”
The latest Sixers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Sixers newsletter here!
Georges Niang Ready to ‘Tussle’
Georges Niang is a newcomer to the rivalry, but he would have no problem jumping into a fight if something goes awry. The 6-foot-7 forward sounded like he almost expected something to arise on the court between the Sixers and Nets on Thursday.
“I always seem to get myself in some little tussles,” Niang said, “so I wouldn’t be surprised if there was another one tomorrow night.”
Niang wasn’t in Philly long enough to get to know Simmons; the diva guard requested a trade before the Sixers signed Niang, then Simmons got kicked out of the only practice he attended. That being said, Niang and Simmons were teammates at one point.
“I mean, obviously, we’re not gonna hide and say what didn’t happen,” Niang said. “There was a trade that happened, we got James, they got Ben.”
Tyrese Maxey Staying Out of Everything
Simmons served as a mentor to Tyrese Maxey last season and the two developed a close bond, including sharing the same sports agency in Klutch Sports. The two players actually got to know each other prior to the 2020 NBA draft during summer workouts in California. Maxey had lent his support to Simmons when the drama first started unfolding at Sixers’ training camp in September.
“I love him like a brother,” Maxey said of Simmons in September. “Of course, we’re a better team with Ben.”
His attitude hasn’t changed much in six months. And Maxey clearly wasn’t going to add any fuel to the Simmons’ dumpster fire.
“He’s a great dude, great person. I really appreciate him,” Maxey said. “He took me under his wing, tried to help me as much as he possibly could and treated me like a brother. So I have nothing but love for him.”