By Peter Gleason
The Sixers may have lost to the Celtics in five games in the Eastern semis, but Sixers center Joel Embiid is already chomping at the bit to beat the C’s next year and beyond.
The Celtics won Game Five on home court 114-112 and will face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals for the second consecutive season.
Embiid expects the Sixers and the Celtics to cross each other’s path a lot more in the future, hinting the two clubs will battle it out for supremacy in the Eastern Conference.
“For the next decade, we’re going to have a lot of fun battles,” he was quoted as saying by Boston Sports Journal.
His stance was echoed by Sixers’ coach Brett Brown, who hinted this season’s might have been the first of many matchups between the two teams.
“If we’re going to do anything of any significance, we’re always going to have to go through the Boston Celtics,” he told ESPN.
The Celtics will be even better once Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward return from their long-term injuries, while young players like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have already made a huge impact.
The Sixers, on the other hand, could have as much as $35.4 million in salary cap room, which would give them the chance to sign LeBron James this summer—should he opt to leave Cleveland.
Philly could also have up to six picks in the upcoming draft, and the Sixers could get the Lakers’ lottery pick if it lands at number one or between six and 30, while the Celtics will get it if it’s between number two and five.
For the time being, however, the Sixers will go back to the drawing board until next season and Embiid, who missed a close range shot that would have tied the game on Wednesday, is already looking forward to it.
“Me and Ben [Simmons] have a lot of room to grow,” he told reporters after the game, per Sports Illustrated. “Looking at KD [Kevin Durant] and [Russell] Westbrook, what they did their first season together, I think they won 28 games.
“We’ve got a bright future … [Simmons] came up to me, showed me his hands, and he was like ‘There’s going to be a lot of rings on these.'”
The Sixers have arguably the most exciting core of young players in the league, but developing talent takes time. The Process began to click this season, as the Sixers went 52-30 and won their last 16 games of the regular season to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
“Looking at where we are, it paid off,” Embiid said.
“We definitely have more to show.”
“Gotta give them [the Celtics] a lot of respect,” Embiid added, as reported by the Athletic “They play well together. They made some tough shots throughout the series […] It sucks, but you gotta learn from it and come back next year even better.”