Doug Collins has seen all the hoopla before. The media circus surrounding the Miami Heat's visit last night brought back memories to Collins of his early years as a player with the 76ers. The buzz that has been created with the addition of LeBron James and Chris Bosh to a team that already boasted superstar Dwyane Wade is unmatched in the NBA, probably in all of sports.
"I maybe have played on what I call the first 'rock-show' team," the new Sixers coach said before last night's game. "We had Julius [Erving] and George McGinnis. I don't put myself into that mix. People got to the arena early to watch the layup line and the [pregame] dunk contest. It was amazing. Every arena we went to it was always sold out and it brought a certain energy, and our guys thrived on that."
Last night, at the Wells Fargo Center, fans rushed in when the doors opened an hour-and-a-half before the game and crammed the tunnel-area where Heat players emerged from the locker room to get to the court. People took pictures with cell phones and cameras as James and Co. warmed up. Fans strained for autographs, others shouted angry words toward James in particular, whose departure from Cleveland - and the way he announced it - left many with ill-feelings toward him.
"I'm used to it," said James of having a bull's-eye on his back. "I've become friends with the bull's-eye."
Collins, of course, was the No. 1 pick of the Sixers in 1973 after the team posted a 9-73 record. The 1976-77 team, led by Collins, Erving, McGinnis, Lloyd Free (now World B.) and Darryl Dawkins, advanced to the NBA Finals, losing to the Portland Trail Blazers in six games.
Though his sprained right wrist is still far from 100 percent, Sixers swingman Andre Iguodala gave it a go last night.
"I can play, but it's still painful," Iguodala said before the game. "Trying to shoot the same shot is the hardest thing to do because of the pain that's in there. When the game starts the adrenaline gets it going. I'm just going to try to play my game and not think about it too much."
Center Spencer Hawes had missed a couple of weeks during the preseason with a sore lower back, but has been practicing for the past week and was in the starting lineup last night.
"It's feeling really good," Hawes said. "It's nice to be back. I'm not even worried about [the back]."
With the theme of the evening being how well the superstars for the Heat can play together, Hawes talked about jelling with his new teammates in such a short period.
"I think it just depends on the situation," he said. "Obviously, it doesn't happen right away, but getting in that week of practice was big and from here on out we can jell together quickly. Part of it is me getting used to them and them getting used to me in knowing where to get them the ball and them knowing where I like it."
A night after being a scratch in the Heat's opener against the Boston Celtics, former Sixer Jerry Stackhouse was activated last night by Miami coach Erik Spoelstra. Stackhouse, now in his 16th season after being taken by the Sixers with the third pick in the 1995 draft, was added to the Heat roster after swingman Mike Miller broke his right thumb in practice last week. Miller will be out until January.
"We activated Jerry tonight to give us a little more depth on the perimeter," said Spoelstra. "Because of [passing his physical] he's only had one practice with us, but he'll be fine."
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