Considering the bated breath with which the Sixers’ homestand against the Nets is being awaited, the schedule fittingly has it as one of just two matches on tap today. No, there was no conspiracy; when the league finalized the timetable prior to the start of the 2021-22 campaign, there was no indication at all that the two sides would be swapping All-Stars right before the trade deadline, and that the circumstances behind the deal served only to heighten raw emotions surrounding the personalities involved.
Indeed, both James Harden and Ben Simmons hitherto made waves on the court for their respective set of skills, but likewise off it for their desire to wish for new digs. Even casual observers now know the progression of events that led the Nets and Sixers to consider their exits as addition by subtraction. The fact that they just so happen to be otherworldly while burning rubber is a definite plus, to be sure. Make no mistake, though; they wore out their welcome to the point where getting rid of them was the objective in and of itself.
Certainly, the Sixers have been reaping the early benefits. They’ve gone five and zero since they spread the welcome mat for Harden, whose partnership with preemptive Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid has predictably reaped dividends. Meanwhile, the Nets anticipate a similar jump in competitiveness once Simmons is cleared for active duty; back issues have plagued his return and set back efforts to get him to shape following a long hiatus.
And so the Wells Fargo Center will be rocking today. Those involved aren’t even pretending that the set-to will simply be one of 82 in the regular season, while those moving past turnstiles figure to boo Simmons the loudest, never mind that his backside will be glued to his seat throughout the game. The Sixers will get what they have of late from the City of Brotherly Love, while the Nets will get anything but brotherly love in turn. Which is why the latter are smart to bring their new acquisition along. The negative reception will come, so might as well get the worst over with while in the sidelines. In other words, today is merely the first contest in a long list of a bona fide rivalry.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, oprerations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.