PHILADELPHIA—This was the night Philadelphia 76ers fans had longed for; a chance to shower their love on their new big man (didn’t quite turn out that way) while at the same time bidding good riddance to the player who had unwittingly become an eyesore to the local hoops community over the past eight years: Andre Iguodala.
Who could have imagined that those MVP chants reverberating throughout the building in the closing stages of the Sixers’ opening night 84-75 win over Iguodala’s Denver Nuggets would not be for Andrew Bynum?
They were for Spencer Hawes.
While Bynum sat on the bench wearing a shirt and vest that made him look more like a banker than the 7-foot franchise center they mortgaged a chunk of their future for, Hawes came off the bench and did everything coach Doug Collins could possibly ask from any big man. He scored (16 points, including a pair of 3-pointers), rebounded (12 boards) and especially defended, blocking five shots that often triggered Philadelphia’s transition game.
And while it might be a bit unfair to go along with the post-game quip that the 24-year-old Hawes, an afterthought for the better part of his five-year career, had dressed up as a basketball player for Halloween, certainly this was not what Sixers fans were expecting.