There are photos of Bill Russell, Larry Bird and Paul Pierce celebrating NBA titles plastered along the walls of the hallway that leads to the Boston Celtics and visitors locker room in the TD Garden. The walk down the corridor from the media room is like a stroll through a time machine. You can practically hear Tommy Heinsohn arduously shouting commentary and Kevin Garnett screaming, "Anything is possible!"
Neither the Celtics or Philadelphia 76ers will be competing for an NBA championship this season. That's essentially why everyone from Danny Ainge and Sam Hinkie to Vitor Faverani and Jarvis Varnado are getting paid for the 2014-15 campaing, yet we all know neither organization will come close enough to even sniff a Finals appearance, let alone a playoff berth.
Both franchises, Atlantic Division rivals until Adam Silver inevitably abolishes the current East-West conference configurations, find themselves respectively in year two of massive overhauls, rebuilds from several-straight seasons of fruitless playoff appearances.
There's a fundamental difference in the two team's processes, however: The Celtics have an arguably max-level player in Rajon Rondo on the roster as well as proven veterans in Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley. Hell, Boston is even employing Evan Turner for the next two years.
The Sixers have a young core in place: Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid will be marketed as the team's Big Three of the future. Today, the team's ad campaign for the season is "Young Run Fun Dunk," featuring photos of just MCW and Noel. You have to figure Embiid will join the PR department's marketing strategy once he's completely healthy for 2015-16.
One might compare the two teams' situations and claim the Celtics are closer to championship contention than the Sixers. Call it bias, but I'd like to disagree.
Is Rondo, now just as injury prone as Derrick Rose, Bradley, Green, Sullinger, Turner, Marcus Smart, James Young and Kelly Olynyk, really a core that can contend for titles in two or three years? Would that foundation intimidate fans of other Eastern Conference teams?
Most likely not.
Meanwhile, it's hard to debate MCW, Noel and Embiid aren't an intriguing future threesome. Throw in K.J. McDaniels, Tony Wroten and Dario Saric, everyone around the league is excited for what's brewing in Philly.
Tonight, the two teams clash on the parquet in Boston. The outcome of the game is meaningless, but think about which club is better suited for the future while you're watching.