The Philadelphia 76ers opened their 50th season in Philly last night on Halloween with an 84-75 win over the Denver Nuggets. That’s a very simple, factual statement. The truth of the matter, however, was that this game means so much more to the Delaware Valley than another opening night for one of the major teams in this town. The 76ers are beginning to represent much, much more.
Last night’s game was riddled with storylines, both good and bad. The good storyline involved former Sixer Andre Iguodala. Iggy (as he was not-so-affectionately called during his tenure with this team) came back to town with his new team in tow. The organization decided to take the high road on some comments made by the former self-proclaimed super star earlier in the week, and instead gave him a video tribute to thank him for his years of service. During his introduction, fan reaction was mixed, as it should be. Not since the Phillies honored Mike Lieberthal has a Philadelphia organization taken the time to honor such mediocrity. Iguodala was ultimately a very polarizing sports figure in this town for the eight seasons he spend in red and blue (and those awful black & gold uniforms from the late 90′s until about three seasons ag0). He represents a period of darkness for Sixers basketball. He was paid like a superstar, yet never lived up to his hype. Many resent him for this, others praise him for being a light in dark times, but most were indifferent. In the end, the tribute was a classy move by a storied NBA franchise that really didn’t need to be made. I’m sure Iggy appreciated the gesture.
The bad storyline involves the uncertainty of the Sixers’ prized offseason acquisition Andrew Bynum. The 7’0″ center has yet to practice with his new team because of a chronic knee condition that seemingly won’t get better. Only the Sixers and their training staff know how serious the issue really is, but it’s becoming an increasingly alarming issue with every game the star player misses. In an offseason of questionable acquisitions, Bynum was the lynchpin. He arrived with Jason Richardson in the deal that made the Sixers a preseason powerhouse. He was the guy who was going to get them over the top. Now, it seems he can’t even get onto the practice floor, and the fate of the team ultimately rests on his gigantic shoulders.
To turn back to the positive, the Sixers displayed all the traits that got them off to a strong start last season. They played swarming team defense, created turnovers, and got out on the break to store. They’ve also added new dimensions to their game, such as players who can shoot, especially from beyond the arc. This has the makings of a team that can shoot the lights out of a place, mount quick rallys, and go without prolonged stretches of scoring. This will not be a season of uninterrupted bliss. There will be growing pains, especially with a slew of new young players.
Still, the front office was not fooled by last year’s playoff success (beating a Derrick Rose-less Bulls team in the first round, and hanging with an aging Celtics team for 7 games in the second). They went out quietly this offseason and made some moves, trying to bring together some new talent. The pieces are there, save for one (a very big one at that). But rest assured, this team now has 81 games to play at their best, and if Bynum can come back in any way healthy, this can be a scary team going forward. Ladies and gentleman, let’s give it up for OUR 2012-2013 Philadelphia 76ers. They could do some great things this season.Tags: Andre Igoudala, Andrew Bynum, Jason Richardson, NBA, Philadelphia 76ers