Nuggets at 76ers preview: Andre Iguodala's return to Philadelphia kicks off the season

Chris Humphreys-US PRESSWIRE

The Nuggets begin the 2012-13 NBA season with three straight road games, the first at Philadelphia. But Game 1 should be less challenging with 76ers center Andrew Bynum out of the lineup.

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2012/2013 NBA Regular Season: Game 1
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October 31st, 2012, 5:00 PM (MT)
Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
TV Altitude / 950 AM / 104.3 FM The Fan
Probable Starters
Jrue Holiday PG Ty Lawson
Jason Richardson SG Andre Iguodala
Evan Turner SF Danilo Gallinari
Thaddeus Young PF Kenneth Faried
Lavoy Allen C Kosta Koufos
Notes
Liberty Ballers Blogs You're here!
Kwame Brown (doubtful), Andrew Bynum (out) Injuries Danilo Gallinari (day-to-day), Wilson Chandler (probable), Julyan Stone (out)
Lost 108-104 (in OT) at Philadelphia last season Stat Iguodala had 11 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists versus Denver last season

[UPDATE] Hochman reporting no Gallinari or Mozgov tonight for the Nuggets.

The NBA schedule makers did the Nuggets no favors by sending them on the road for three straight games to start the season and 22 of their first 32 games taking place away from Pepsi Center. But good fortune has smiled on the Nuggets in regards to their opening night matchup as 76ers All-Star center Andrew Bynum (rehabbing his right knee) will not participate in the opening night festivities.

Bynum, as we well know, was acquired by the 76ers as part of the mega off-season deal that sent Nuggets Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington to the Orlando Magic, Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers and All-Star / Olympian Andre Iguodala to your Denver Nuggets. Ecstatic to have Iguodala on-board, Nuggets head coach George Karl believes that the 6'6" long-armed, versatile swing man gives the Nuggets a defensive presence at two-guard that they've never had before. In fact, by adding Iguodala much of the "NBA punditry" world has the Nuggets pegged for big things in 2012-13.

In a coincidental twist, Iguodala begins his Nuggets career playing against his former teammates in the only city he has ever known during his eight-year NBA career. Emotions will be high on both sides, but it will be interesting to see how many Philadelphia fans actually show up given the disaster that has been Hurricane Sandy pelting the East Coast. Luckily for the Nuggets, their season-opening road trip seems to avoid the worst part of Sandy's path as the Nuggets head south from Philadelphia for the Florida two-step this weekend. (Including playing at NBA Champion Miami for a game that your fellow Stiffs will be watching together for this Saturday's Stiffs Night Out! Oh, and did I mention that we'll be giving away tickets to Heat vs. Nuggets game that night, too?!)

If recent history is any indication, the Nuggets have a good track record of bringing former 76ers back to Philadelphia to beat the home team. In their lone matchup last season, the Nuggets beat the 76ers 108-104 in a thrilling overtime game that saw former 76er (and now Nugget) Andre Miller have his best game of the 2011-12 season: 28 points, 8 rebounds, 10 assists and 2 steals ... including the last 10 points of regulation. In that same game, Iguodala was one assist shy of a triple double himself. Now Miller and Iguodala - who played together in Philadelphia for two-and-a-half season after the 2007 Allen Iverson trade - have been reunited in Denver to help form one of the NBA's most dynamic backcourts now that starting point guard Ty Lawson has been re-signed for four more seasons.

But while the Nuggets' backcourt has become more dynamic, the 76ers' guard rotation has had a complete makeover. Not only did the 76ers part with Iguodala to land Bynum (a reasonable gamble by any measure), but they also lost Lou Williams - their top backup guard and leading scorer in 2011-12 - to free agency. In place of Iguodala and Williams steps in Jrue Holiday at point guard, the aging Jason Richardson at shooting guard and former second overall pick Evan Turner will be moved to small forward, where he'll be a bit undersized. Without Iguodala, much will be asked of Holiday and Turner defensively (you can forget counting on Richardson defensively) and of small forward-turned-power forward Thaddeus Young, whose had a solid pre-season filling much of the production void left by Iguodala's departure.

And thus, with Iguodala and Williams gone and Bynum and new acquisitions Dorell Wright and Nick Young on board, it's hard to know what the 76ers will look like this season. They will certainly look much different from the 76ers teams that have given the Nuggets fits since the Iverson trade (the Nuggets have actually lost to the 76ers in Denver three of the last four times they've played at Pepsi Center).

The 76ers may not be the only ones dealing with injuries woes on opening night, however. The Nuggets have their own issues with - surprise - Danilo Gallinari. Gallo hurt his left ankle and is listed at "day-to-day" for Wednesday night's season opener at Philadelphia. Are we in for another season of would be / could be lineups due to injuries hitting the team?

Let's hope not.

THREE THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN THIS GAME

1) Will the Nuggets go big or small?

I have no idea who Lavoy Allen is (the 76ers presumed starting center on Wednesday night) but I know he's listed at just 6'9". So will Karl deploy his three bigs of JaVale McGee, Kosta Koufos and Timofey Mozgov? Or will the Nuggets coach stick to his comfort zone and play small ball?

2) Ty Lawson's assertiveness.

Like the contracts of Danilo Gallinari, JaVale McGee, Nene Hilario and Arron Afflalo signed before him, Lawson re-upped with Denver for just the right amount of money to get lazy and rest on his laurels ... or prove that he's worth the Nuggets investment in him. Since he's on my fantasy team, he better do the latter.

3) Jordan Hamilton! Jordan Hamilton!

The Nuggets and their close followers in the media went crazy over Corey Brewer's pre-season performance, but anyone who has read this blog knows that Brewer's erratic game scares the hell out of me. I'd prefer to see Hamilton - and his ability to can three-pointers consistently - get ample playing time this season and become a staple of Karl's bench rotation. We should get some indication of that on opening night.

SCOUTING THE 76ERS

76ERS NON-STIFFS

Andrew Bynum: Bynum is a diva and a chore to deal with, but he produces. The seven-foot center had his best NBA season ever in 2011-12, averaging 18.7 ppg, 11.8 rpg and 1.9 bpg. And yet the Lakers couldn't wait to trade the guy for Dwight Howard, which should tell you something.

Thaddeus Young: Young is a versatile small/power forward that will get ample opportunities this season to pick up his game with Iguodala out of the picture.

76ERS STIFFS

Spencer Hawes: Tall (7'1"), big (245 pounds), white and shoots under 50% from the field. Enough said.

Kwame Brown: What's more surprising? That yet another NBA team gave Brown a lucrative contract or that 76ers head coach Doug Collins wanted to coach this guy again after their disastrous experience in Washington together? Brown proves once again that it's better to be really tall than good in the NBA.


PARTING SHOT

It's opening night! It's opening night!

In a bizarre bit of scheduling, the Nuggets are opening on the road on the East Coast for the first time ... well ... ever? I honestly can't remember this ever happening in Nuggets history, but with the first game of the season being Iguodala's return to Philadelphia, I couldn't be more excited.

GO NUGGETS!!

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Remember to attend this Saturday's STIFFS NIGHT OUT at Jake's Food & Spirits, located at 3800 Walnut Street, Denver, CO 80205. We will be gathering at 5:00pm to watch the Nuggets take on the Heat in Miami. We will play Nuggets trivia to win tickets to the Nuggets/Heat game and the Nuggets/Warriors game. We will also be giving away a signed basketball by JaVale McGee and new uniform Nuggets T-shirts! And all trivia proceeds will go to Denver Hooperz, a non-profit program that brings basketball to at-risk youths in the Denver area.

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Once again, our ticketing partners at TiqIQ are offering great deals on Nuggets tickets. Be sure to check out their amazing offers all season long!

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