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Sixers don’t care about Celtics rivalry, just winning

The Sixers open the regular season Tuesday in Boston, but the players are downplaying the rivalry theme.

Sixers Ben Simmons slam dunks in the first quarter of their preseason game against the Orlando Magic October 1, 2018. TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Sixers Ben Simmons slam dunks in the first quarter of their preseason game against the Orlando Magic October 1, 2018. TOM GRALISH / Staff PhotographerRead moreTom Gralish

The 76ers will open the season on Tuesday where they ended the last one when they visit the Boston Celtics in the first NBA game on the league's schedule.

Last season ended for the Sixers on May 9 when they lost Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, 114-112, at TD Garden.

Tuesday's game will reunite the rivals, although the Sixers players don't see it that way. This current group of Sixers doesn't care about Wilt and Russell, Dr. J and Bird, the players who helped make this such a storied rivalry.

The Sixers players only care about recent history.

"It's not a rivalry until we knock them out of the playoffs," sharpshooting guard JJ Redick said Monday after practice.

NBA rookie of the year Ben Simmons feels that the Sixers have 29 rivals.

"A rivalry to me is everybody who is not the Sixers," Simmons said. "It is not one team.  At the end of the day you can't win a championship unless you beat a team from the West."

The new-look Sixers actually have a similar look to last year's team.That's because one key offseason acquisition is definitely out while another is expected to join him on the sideline.

Forward Wilson Chandler, now in his 11th season, is out with a left hamstring strain while sixth-year forward-center Mike Muscala is "highly questionable," according to coach Brett Brown, with a right ankle sprain.

"How can you not miss them?" Brown said of Chandler and Muscala. "… Those are veteran NBA big men."

Still, Brown is ready to play with the hand he is dealt. "Of course, we wish we had them, but I am really so numb to injury things," the coach said. "It happens and you move on."

Also out are guard Zhaire Smith, the No. 16 overall pick acquired in a draft-night deal with Phoenix, and guard Jerryd Bayless. Smith is recovering from left foot surgery while Bayless is out with a left knee sprain.

A Celtics spokesman said there are no injuries to report, but Jabari Bird is out for personal reasons.

While Simmons suggested he isn't into the rivalry talk, he couldn't conceal his excitement to begin the season after four preseason games, including the final two in China against the Dallas Mavericks. "I am ready to go," he said. "I have waited a while and am glad it is back."

Brown has a similar feeling

"You are going to go in the Boston Garden, it is going to be incredibly loud, they are going to roll out two all-stars they didn't have at the end of last year," Brown said, referring to forward Gordon Hayward and point guard Kyrie Irving, both returning from injuries.  The coach said the Celtics "will come in excited to play, and the emotions of that environment can get the better of even a veteran team  — and that we are not."

And now the Sixers, who will play 39 of their 82 games on national television, are eager to begin the long season as the NBA's first featured attraction.

"To start the NBA season and for the league to feel we are worthy enough to hold that sort of platform, yes, it is exciting," Brown said. "As I said, many years I think we are going to be pretty good."