NEW YORK -- When he started playing basketball as a youngster, 76ers center Norvel Pelle envisioned what his NBA debut would be like.
“I would imagine it and it kind of resembled what happened today,” Pelle said after making his debut in the Sixers’ 101-95 win over the Knicks on Friday at Madison Square Garden.
What happened was that the 6-foot-10, 235-pound Pelle was a difference maker.
He played 12 minutes and 33 seconds in his debut. Pelle didn’t take a single shot from the field but scored three points on 3 of 4 free throws. More importantly he had four blocked shots along with two rebounds.
Pelle more than held his ground when the Knicks tried to take it at him while driving to the basket.
“I was telling Norvel everybody was trying to dunk on you,” said James Ennis III, who scored a season-high 20 points off the bench. “He held his ground, jumped for every ball and wasn’t scared.”
While Pelle wasn’t scared, he admittedly had pre-game and some in-game jitters.
“Oh man, the first time I was in the game I was nervous, but once I got the jitters out it just started flowing," Pelle said.
In the third quarter, when the Sixers got back in the game by outscoring the Knicks, 31-17, Pelle had two points and two blocked shots in 3 minutes and 10 seconds.
The Sixers were down two centers entering the game. Al Horford sat out the game for rest purposes and Kyle O’Quinn was sidelined with a left calf strain.
Pelle said he was told during the morning shootaround that he would play.
“I tried not to think about it,” Pelle said. “Thinking about the game, you put too much expectation on yourself and that is when anxiety overshadows the fact that you are playing basketball.”
So he had a simple way to prepare.
“I took a nap, watched TV and got ready for the game,” he said.
The 26-year-old Pelle is a two-way player and has played four games this season with the Sixers’ G League affiliate, the Delaware Blue Coats. He has also played overseas.
NBA teams are allowed to bring up a two-way player for a maximum of 45 days. After that, teams have to sign the player to the regular 15-man roster or send him to the G League.
Coach Brett Brown felt Pelle was a true difference maker in his debut.
“I thought Norvel came in and just gave us a bounce,” Brown said. “I thought his presence at the rim was excellent. We have seen it with the G League team before and I thought he was excellent.”
Pelle said he his confidence grew with each blocked shot.
“Blocked shots is what I do, and I had to do what I do," he said.
He said it didn’t take him long to settle down.
"When I first got subbed out, I took a deep breath and said welcome to the NBA."
It was a welcome that he will always remember.