With the Philadelphia 76ers slated to take on the Brooklyn Nets on January 25, Brooklyn Nets personnel were asked about the rivalry between the two Atlantic Division foes. However, Kevin Durant had an alternative take when asked about the Sixers’ rivalry with the Nets.
“Rivalries in the NBA are not really a thing, in my opinion,” he told reporters, per The Boston Herald. “It’s going to be a battle amongst each fan base on social media, but as far as the players, it’s another game on the schedule, and each team is trying to get better and improve.”
Whether a rivalry exists between the two sides or not, at 30-16, the Sixers are one game ahead of the Nets, who are 29-17, in the Eastern Conference standings. The winner of the game will either have the two teams tie with the same record, or the Sixers will get a two-game lead on the Nets in the standings. Durant is not expected to play after injuring his MCL.
With how close their records are to one another, and with both being among the top team record-wise in the East, it’s possible these two teams could face off against one another in the postseason.
Jacque Vaughn’s Thoughts on Sixers-Nets Matchup
While Vaughn did not echo Durant’s words on rivalries, he clarified that the upcoming game against the Sixers is only another game and nothing else.
“More than anything, it’s Philly is…above us in the standings, and I think that makes it important,” Vaughn told reporters. “You’re playing an Eastern Conference team, and you don’t know what the results are gonna be at the end of the year. I think at the end of the day, that’s the most important thing.”
One possible reason it could be viewed as a rivalry is not just because the two teams have been in the same division for decades but also because of the Sixers-Nets trade from last year, which involved exchanging James Harden for Ben Simmons, among others. The Nets’ personnel don’t see it that way and see the Sixers more as an opponent than a rival.
Vaughn’s Thoughts on Simmons’ Progression
With Simmons making another return to Philadelphia, there probably will be hostility coming from Sixers fans knowing how badly his tenure ended with the team. However, according to the Boston Herald, Vaughn’s not focusing too much on that.
“Vaughn isn’t too concerned with how Simmons handles another visceral reaction from Philly fans because he’s already gone through it. Instead, he is more concerned that Simmons continues to round into All-Star form after missing all of last season and subsequently undergoing offseason back surgery.”
Vaughn believes Simmons has progressed and should continue progressing with more time.
“He’s definitely taken some strides that way. Now it’s more possessions. Let’s accomplish that. More,” Vaughn said. “We’re gonna continue to ask more of him.”
Vaughn also sounded optimistic about Simmons’ progression going forward.
“Ben is very comfortable with the ball in his hands,” he said. “Now we’re asking him to do other things with the basketball, without the basketball, and I think he’s growing in those areas.