With the Philadelphia 76ers scheduled to play the Brooklyn Nets on January 25, Brooklyn Nets staffers were asked about the rivalry between the two Atlantic Division opponents. However, Kevin Durant had an alternative take when asked about the Sixers’ rivalry with the Nets.
“Rivalries in the NBA aren’t really a thing in my opinion,” he told reporters, according to The Boston Herald. “It’s going to be a battle between every fan base on social media but for the players it’s another game on the agenda and every team is trying to get better and improve.”
Whether or not there is a rivalry between the two sides, the Sixers are 30-16 in the Eastern Conference standings one game ahead of the Nets, who are 29-17. The game winner will either have the two teams with the same record, or the Sixers will have a two-game lead over the Nets overall. Durant is not expected to play after his MCL injury.
Given the closeness of their records and the fact that both are among the best teams in the East, it’s possible these two teams will face off in the postseason.
While Vaughn didn’t repeat Durant’s words about rivalries, he did clarify that the upcoming game against the Sixers is just another game and nothing else.
“More than anything, Philly is ahead of us … overall, 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 will be like at the end of the year. I think at the end of the day that’s the most important thing.”
One possible reason why it could be viewed as a rivalry is not only because the two teams have played in the same division for decades, but also because of last year’s Sixers-Nets trade, which included James Harden versus Ben Simmons was exchanged. Nets personnel see it differently, seeing the Sixers as opponents rather than rivals.
With Simmons returning to Philadelphia once again, there will likely be animosity from Sixers fans who know how badly his tenure with the team ended. According to the Boston Herald, however, Vaughn isn’t too focused on it.
“Vaughn isn’t too concerned about how Simmons is handling another backlash from Philly fans because he’s already been through it. Instead, he’s more concerned about Simmons continuing to play in All-Star form after missing all of last season and subsequently undergoing off-season back surgery.
Vaughn believes Simmons has made progress and should continue to make progress with more time.
“He’s definitely made some progress that way. Now it’s more possessions. Let’s achieve this. More,” Vaughn said. “We will continue to ask more of him.”
Vaughn also sounded optimistic about Simmons’ future development.
“Ben is very comfortable with the ball in his hands,” he said. “Now we’re asking him to do other things with basketball, without basketball, and I think he’s growing in those areas.
In 35 games this season, Simmons has averaged 7.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 6.4 assists while shooting 56.9 percent from the field.