The Sixers’ opener Wednesday night was littered with intriguing storylines such as Andre Iguodala’s return to Philadelphia, five new faces making their on-court debuts and Andrew Bynum’s ongoing knee woes. Then Spencer Hawes stole the show.
Yes, the same Spencer Hawes that found little interest on the free agent market this summer and settled for a meager two-year deal with the Sixers. The same Hawes that’s coming off the bench behind LaVoy Allen and showed up to camp with a mini-mullet.
This Hawes went off for 16 points, 12 rebounds, two 3-pointers and five blocks in a 84-75 win over the Nuggets. When it was said and done, he was getting serenaded with MVP chants from the Wells Fargo Center crowd.
“Spencer was brilliant. … our ace of spades,” coach Doug Collins said.
Even Hawes admitted he can’t replicate this kind of difference-making performance nightly, but it was a reminder of what he was able to do last season before his back and Achilles’ tendon issues cropped up. In the first nine games of last year, Hawes averaged 11.1 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and shot 61.8-percent from the field. His season crumbled from there underneath the weight of the lockout-induced condensed schedule.
“Anytime you can come into the season healthy — and I think this season is going to feel a lot different after last season,” Hawes said. “Having time between games, being able to really maintain your body.”
Hawes’ performance helped fans temporarily forget about the fact that their savior, Bynum, watched the game while wearing a suit. There’s no timetable for his return as the Sixers have pledged to exercise extreme caution with his bone bruise.
Hawes certainly isn’t the Messiah, but he rose up for one night and got the Sixers’ season off on the right foot.
Mixed bag greets Iguodala
Andre Iguodala received a mixed reception from the hometown faithful. During pregame introductions, some boos were overshadowed by loud yelling when his name was called. Once the game got underway, he was booed hard every time he touched the ball.
But when the Sixers did a video tribute to Iguodala during a timeout in the first quarter, many fans stood up and clapped. Iguodala’s on-court game looked a lot like his Philly days as he clanged jumpers, had some nice dunks and stood out defensively. He finished with 11 points, four assists and four rebounds.
Holiday signs extension
The Sixers signed guard Jrue Holiday to a multi-year contract extension. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“Jrue is both an outstanding player and an important part of our future,” said managing owner Josh Harris. “We are very excited to keep a player of Jrue’s caliber in Philadelphia and truly look forward to further building the 76ers legacy around his leadership.”
“I’m ecstatic to continue playing in Philadelphia,” Holiday said. “I’m going to keep putting in the work and pushing myself every day in order to bring a championship to the city and our fans.”
In 220 career games leading into this season, Holiday had posted averages of 11.9 points, 5.0 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 31.2 minutes per game.