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Sixers open season tonight in Portland

After a long delay, the NBA season begins tonight for the Sixers in Portland. It is the first of five straight road games to begin the season.

While most casual fans around the city are greeting the beginning of the NBA season with a "who cares?" type of mentality, there does seem to be a little more enthusiasm towards the Sixers, who start tonight in Portland.

Coach Doug Collins lamented how his team might just have the hardest beginning schedule throughout the league, as the Sixers will play their first five games on the road. Tonight they'll face a Portland team that is vastly different from last season.

Forward Gerald Wallace will start his first full season with the team and coach Nate McMillan is counting on the rugged forward to provide many intangibles on the court, both offensively and defensively. Raymond Felton takes over the point guard responsibilities from Andre Miller and have added sixth-man specialist Jamal Crawford from Atlanta and had to part with Brandon Roy, who retired due to chronic knee problems.

The Trail Blazers do return leading scorer LaMarcus Aldridge (21.8 pts., 8.8 reb.) and will also start ageless Marcus Camby in the front court.

A must-win game in a 66-game schedule? Of course not. But it is very important for the Sixers to get off to a good start to the season. They are virtually the same team from last season, which is a big advantage in this shortened season. They also have to erase the memories of last year's dismal 3-13 start.

Like just about every game they'll play this season, the Sixers will have a huge advantage ovewr the Blazers in bench play. Thaddeus Young, Lou Williams and Evan Turner could prove to be the difference in this game.

The Sixers will have to try and limit Aldridge, who can step out to 18 feet and consistently hit jumpers. They'll also have to get some inside scoring from Elton Brand and Spencer Hawes against a couple of good shot-blockers in Aldridge and Camby.

The key, though, could be the matchup between Andre Iguodala and Wallace. If Iguodala can match Wallace throughout the game, the Sixers depth could put an end to Portland's streak of 10 consecutive home-opening wins.

More to come...