Alan Henderson could rest easy last night. That would be in the category of a guilty pleasure for the 6-9 forward/center who re-signed with the 76ers yesterday for the final nine games of the NBA season.
Henderson could rest easy because the team spent last night in New York, preparing for tonight's game against the Knicks. That left Henderson's wife, Maxine, home with 7-week-old Jacob, born Valentine's Day, and everybody knows that a full night's sleep and a newborn rarely go hand in hand.
Still, re-signing Henderson was the plan all along. The Sixers originally signed him as a veteran free agent, mostly as a locker-room presence and mentor for their younger players, but also as a veteran who could contribute when necessary. Then a miscalculation concerning the Sixers' payroll and the luxury-tax threshold created a difficult situation, forcing president/general manager Billy King to make a move he didn't want to make.
To resolve that, the Sixers traded Henderson to the Utah Jazz on Feb. 22, acquiring the right to exchange second-round positions in the June draft and reducing the protection on a 2008 second-round pick. The Sixers also agreed to pay the remainder of Henderson's salary. The Jazz, which had the cap space to accommodate Henderson's contract, subsequently waived him March 2.
By re-joining the Sixers yesterday, Henderson picked up some extra cash and filled a frontcourt need while Joe Smith's status remains fluid as he attends to personal business. At the same time, neither Andre Iguodala (lower back strain) nor Kyle Korver (sore right hand) participated in yesterday's practice.
"I've never seen a bunch of guys [as] happy to see a player come back as they were with [Henderson], because he's a good guy, he's all about the team, everything he does is for the team," coach Maurice Cheeks said. "If we need him to step in, he's always available to play."
In effect, Henderson - who appeared in 34 games, averaging 3.5 points and 3.1 rebounds - never left Philadelphia, using the time to get acquainted with the newest member of his family.
"It's been different," he said. "It was an unexpected trade. That's just part of the league. You never know when you're going to get traded or where you're going to wind up. I'm just glad it's all worked out, and I'm back here now with the guys I started the year with. I was just real proud watching them play over those 6 weeks I was gone."
Because he had played in the league this season and had been waived after March 1, he was ineligible to be on another team's playoff roster. He continued to lift weights and get in his cardiovascular workouts.
"I just see a lot of confidence in the guys," he said. "It's like they're thinking they're going to win, and even the games that didn't go [their] way, they were mostly close games and games that we could've won. Close games down the stretch early in the year, we had a hard time winning them, making a couple key plays down the stretch. Now, we're making plays and getting plays from everybody.
"Sometimes it just takes playing with each other for a little bit. Some guys are playing a lot more minutes than they played before. All of that helps you get comfortable, get your confidence. Having your confidence is half of staying in this league."