76ers Preparing for Celtics Playoff Matchup If Season Resumes, Elton Brand Says

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMay 5, 2020

FILE - In this May 14, 2019, file photo, Philadelphia 76ers general manager Elton Brand speaks during a news conference at the NBA basketball team's practice facility in Camden, N.J.  Brand was a high-profile bust when he played for the 76ers. He got a second chance in the front office and is determined to lead the organization to the championship he couldn’t win as a player. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
Matt Rourke/Associated Press

It is unclear when the NBA will resume play amid the COVID-19 pandemic or if the league will even have a regular season if it does. One possibility for a return to play could be simply going straight into the playoffs. 

Were that the case, the Philadelphia 76ers (39-26) would be the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference and face the current No. 3 seed, the Boston Celtics (43-21). Sixers general manager Elton Brand said the team is already preparing for that specific possibility.  

"We are talking about the Celtics as if that could be an opponent," he told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Brett [Brown] and his staff have also prepared for other teams in case there is a regular season and the [seeds] change. But we've done a deep dive."

The Sixers got the better of the regular-season matchup, going 3-1 against Boston, though the Celtics won the last meeting on Feb. 1, 116-95. The Celtics also won the last playoff series between the teams in 2018, though both teams have significantly different rosters now.

The Sixers are a tough matchup for the Celtics, who don't have a bruising center capable of slowing down Joel Embiid on the interior. They also have a number of good defenders to throw at players like Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum, including Ben Simmons and Josh Richardson, and enough size, in general, to make the perimeter-oriented Celtics work for every open look.

One piece of good news for Philadelphia is that Ben Simmons, who was sidelined with a nerve impingement in his lower back when the season was put on hiatus, could be good to go once the season resumes:

Seeing the reinvigoration of the classic Sixers-Celtics rivalry would be a good thing for the NBA, and Brand wouldn't mind seeing the rivalry renewed in this year's postseason.

"As a fan, of course, I'd love to see it," he said. "I want to see this team in the playoffs. I've said it many times, that's what we were built for. I want to see that, but I know it's going to be based on the [coronavirus] data."