The Philadelphia 76ers were scheduled to face the Denver Nuggets in the season opener long ago. However, once Andre Iguodala was traded to the Nuggets afterwards - and once Andrew Bynum came to Philadelphia - Sixers fans like myself really circled the Oct. 31 opener on our calendars. Yet with Bynum still sidelined due to injuries, Iguodala will be the unquestioned headliner of this battle.
While the Sixers are still waiting for Bynum's first ever game in a Philadelphia uniform, fans will see Iguodala's first ever game outside of a Philadelphia uniform right off the bat. This will make him the star of the evening - although being the top star never suited him as a Sixer.
Because he was not an ideal No. 1 option, Iguodala was barely appreciated until last season, when he finally became an All-Star. However, us fans tend to appreciate players like him more when they're gone, and we wind up missing what they did give us. But since he's coming back to Philadelphia in the season opener, we won't have any time to miss him just yet.
Still, this game will start to reveal how much of a difference Iguodala really is. With Andrew Bynum out, will the Sixers regret not having him around to stabilize an untested backup core? And as for the Nuggets, can Iguodala be a difference maker for them - and one that can help them stay within range of the Western Conference elite?
It will take more than this one game to settle those questions, but they will recur throughout the season. Philadelphia could have conceivably been stronger if Iguodala and Bynum were teammates - but it probably couldn't have made room to get Bynum without trading Iguodala. Hopefully the Sixers didn't pay too high a cost, although we won't know for sure until Bynum actually takes the court.
It's been many years since the Sixers took the floor without having Iguodala on the roster. But given that he was never the kind of star Philadelphia hoped for, it wasn't heartbreaking to see him go - especially when Bynum arrived weeks later. However, a good performance against the Sixers on Opening Night may make us miss him more - particularly if he makes Philadelphia's supporting cast look lacking without him or Bynum.
With the new No. 1 Sixer out of action, the old one will be the big attraction of the season opener by default - just as he was the top Sixer by default for years. But after he and the Nuggets leave, the Sixers will have more reason to think of Bynum and their future, instead of looking back on their past. Still, the hope is that Philadelphia didn't end up being too eager to put their past behind them - especially if the future becomes more uncertain than we thought.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and 76ers fan.
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