Before Friday's Game 3 against the Chicago Bulls, the 76ers trotted out legendary Julius Erving to present the ceremonial first ball. At halftime, they gave him a job.
Sixers CEO Adam Aron announced that Erving would oversee the newly created position of strategic adviser. Erving put it best as to what that exactly means: Owner Josh Harris "called me on various occasions for free. Now he's going to have to pay me."
Erving said he would discuss anything and everything with the organization "from sponsors to players." When pushed further whether he will have a say in trades, Aron interrupted and clarified that this is just a new job to get Erving back to the team for which he played 11 seasons, culminating with an NBA title in 1983.
"It means being available, obviously being knowledgeable and being able to impart that knowledge at specific times, which for Adam and myself and Josh and myself would pretty much be on demand on request," said Erving.
Erving said he would maintain his residence in Atlanta but come to Philadelphia when needed.
Before Tuesday's Game 2, injured Bulls star Derrick Rose took the ceremonial first ball out to the referee to begin the game. Rose, who tore a knee ligament late in Game 1, limped out to midcourt with a depressed look, handed the ball off, and then waved to the fans at the United Center. It was bittersweet, not the emotional high Chicago was no doubt hoping to have.
On the other hand, when Erving went on the court Friday night and handed the ball to Delaware County ref Joey Crawford, the crowd roared in delight.
The 76ers entered unfamiliar territory Friday night when they hosted Game 3 against the Chicago Bulls. It wasn't because they were looking to take a lead in the series but because they were playing a game on their home court.
The Sixers hadn't laid sneaker to the Wells Fargo Center floor since April 17, when they lost to the Indiana Pacers. In fact, that was their fourth consecutive loss at home. Going into Friday's playoff game, the last time the team had won at home was March 31, when it beat the Atlanta Hawks.
"It's great. We're excited to see our fans again," said coach Doug Collins. "We left here fan appreciation night, and there were 5,000 empty seats, and we lost our fourth straight home game. We got in the locker room and said if we're going to get in [the playoffs] we've got to go out and win on the road.
"We won four of five. The one we lost we didn't play guys against Detroit, and then we went on the road and split against Chicago. I think our last seven wins are on the road. But it's great to be back home."
Praised for his defensive effort after being put into the starting lineup for Game 2, Sixers guard Evan Turner was quick to deflect the flattery. He's learned about defense in the NBA from teammate Andre Iguodala.
"If you ever sat there and talked to him, he's like a coach," Turner said of Iguodala. "When there comes a timeout he can tell you everything that's broken down. Once he says stuff, you know he's telling you right, and you don't have to worry about much."
Turner went on to call Iguodala a "defensive genius."
When told of Turner's comments, Iguodala smiled and recalled one of his first lessons to Turner.
"I've been in the league a long time, and when Evan first got here he kind of took things for granted, which rookies do," Iguodala said. "And then he kind of learned his lesson from Kobe Bryant. Every time Kobe scored, [Turner] would look at the bench with his hand up. I'm like, 'OK, keep playing. He's going to score a lot more.' I'm trying to teach him the basics of NBA basketball, especially with being a defender.
"You're not going to stop every single guy you're matched up against. There's just too many guys that can score."