76ers Notes

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Through 19 games, rookie

Marreese Speights

has bounced from the end of the 76ers' bench to crucial fourth-quarter minutes.

Last night, with power forward

Elton Brand

in Philadelphia nursing a strained right hamstring, Speights, for the first time in his young NBA career, stood on the court for the tip-off.

The opponent was one of the Eastern Conference's best, the Detroit Pistons (11-6). The Sixers were 8-11 and had lost five of six.

"We're going with Speights in [Brand's] spot," coach

Maurice Cheeks

said before the game. "We're still going to play the way we've been playing. Our identity is that we're trying to defend, trying to get up and down the floor."

Speights-for-Brand was the only shift in the Sixers' lineup. Going into the game at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Speights was averaging 6.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in 13.2 minutes. He finished the game with eight points in 221/2 minutes.

Cheeks said he went with Speights because of the power-forward matchup with the Pistons'

Rasheed Wallace

. Rather than starting a shooting guard - potentially

Willie Green

- and moving

Andre Iguodala

to small forward and

Thaddeus Young

to power forward, Cheeks wanted the rebounding and size of the 6-foot-10, 245-pound Speights.

"When they're starting out, the rest of the guys out there will help him along out there," Cheeks said of the rest of his starters' directing the rookie. "Those guys understand what he needs to do."

Another Iverson rematch

Each Sixer said he was excited to face former 76er

Allen Iverson

, whether it was because he had played against Iverson or because he respected his game.

"It's cool," point guard

Andre Miller

said of facing Iverson. "He is one of the tougher guards for me because he doesn't stop."

Said power forward

Reggie Evans

: "That's going to be fun, playing against my boy. He's so little and fragile . . . but he's got the heart of a lion."

-Kate Fagan