I was born in 1996, not even remotely close to the great Sixers teams of the 1980s, and admittedly not old enough to remember the run they went on in the early 2000s. What I do know from those times are through stories and video clips, reading about the "Boston Strangler" Andrew Toney and watching Julius Erving try to turn Larry Bird's face to mush while Moses Malone choked him out. I got a taste of what rivalry might have been like in 2012, when the two teams went seven games in a knock down, drag em' out, Eastern Conference semi-finals. Granted, the series didn't have the same ferocity as the matchups in the 80's (chalk that up to a less physical NBA I guess), but it showed the type of show these two foes were capable of putting on when put together.
Two years later, the scenery of both teams has changed drastically. Philadelphia currently sits and will finish second in the draft lottery. Boston is currently duking it out with Utah and Los Angeles for the fourth lottery spot, and at worst they'll finish sixth. Both teams positioned themselves to get to this place, a sort of sad state for two teams with a rich history. The NBA is undoubtedly more fun when the two are at the top together, fighting for playoff positioning, not high draft picks. But the general managers of each team, Sam Hinkie and Danny Ainge have evident plans in place to return the teams to the glory to which they fell from.
The Sixers clearly have a gem in Michael Carter-Williams, who has performed admirably of late despite the lack of talent around him. Nerlens Noel's high top fade now brushes the ceiling at the Wells Fargo Center. Those two alone have the potential to create a fantastic core, and Hinkie's ability to scout gives fans hope he'll knock his two 2014 first rounders out of the park as well.
The mold of Hinkie's plans to help build his team through the draft seem to come from the same mindset as Ainge, who has Boston set up with two first round picks from now until 2018. Couple the potential of a lot of good, young talent with Rajon Rondo (questionable for tonight with a shin injury), Boston has a chance to once again become the cream of the crop.
Tonight's game will probably be ugly as hell, a battle between two teams with nothing to win by winning. A couple years down the line? We could see the same two teams re-ignite a rivalry sparked many years ago.