It’s uncertain, meanwhile, when the new face of the Philadelphia 76ers will be able to take the court.
Iguodala faces his former team as Denver visits Philadelphia, which isn’t likely to have recently acquired Andrew Bynum available for Wednesday’s season opener.
The Nuggets and 76ers both proved busy this offseason, shaking things up in a blockbuster four-team deal that sent Iguodala to Denver, Bynum to Philadelphia, and Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers. The 76ers also received Jason Richardson from Orlando.
Iguodala has created an added level of excitement in Denver, with many expecting the Nuggets to be among the best in the Western Conference.
“As a coach, I’m always nervous about all the hype,” said coach George Karl, whose team went 38-28 before suffering its third consecutive first-round loss in last season’s playoffs. “We’re young and so you worry a little bit. … We haven’t proven anything.”
Having shipped Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington to Orlando, Denver figures to rely on Ty Lawson (16.4 ppg) and Danilo Gallinari (14.6) all the more. Big things are also expected from Kenneth Faried, who led all rookies and finished ninth in the league with 16.3 rebounds per 48 minutes last season.
“We have a lot of weapons,” Iguodala said. “If we use those weapons to our advantage – if everyone can explode in their area – that makes us a very dangerous team.”
While Iguodala isn’t sure what to expect as he returns to Philadelphia, he’s looking forward to starting this next chapter of his career.
“Whether it’s a warm or cold welcome, just because it’s that first game, you really want to get off to a good start,” he said.
“I’m just trying to focus on what I can control and controlling my mindset going into the game. First game, you always want to get a win and get things started off on the right track, so that’s where my focus is.”
With Iguodala no longer around, the 76ers, fresh off a trip to the Eastern Conference semifinals, will likely go as far as Bynum can take them. It’s unknown, however, when Philadelphia will start to reap the benefits of its trade with its All-Star centre sidelined due to right knee pain.
The 76ers plan to take it slow with Bynum, especially given his history of knee trouble. He averaged career highs of 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds with Los Angeles last season.
“He’s a big investment for our team,” general manager Tony DiLeo said. “We want to be cautious. We just have to talk to Andrew every day and see how he’s feeling. When he is pain free, that’s when he will start basketball activities.”
Though the situation is hardly ideal, the 76ers should be able to hold their own while Bynum remains out. In addition to Richardson, Philadelphia added Dorell Wright and Nick Young this offseason, while a healthy Spencer Hawes would also be a big help.
“We’re not going to look over at a lifeline and say, ‘Let’s wait for our lifeline to get back.’ From a coaching standpoint, I have to let our players know we’re good enough,” said coach Doug Collins, whose team went 6-1 in the preseason without Bynum. “We’re good enough to win. That’s who we can be.
“Hopefully when Andrew comes back we can be even better, maybe take it to another level.”
Collins is also hoping to see Jrue Holiday, entering his fourth season in the league, continue his ascent after he averaged 13.5 points and 4.5 assists in 2011-12.
“He’s gotta be our quarterback,” Collins said,” he’s gotta be our guy that creates shots for himself, for others, that gets us easy baskets, who pushes us down the floor… for the most part, anytime we can, we’d like to get Jrue to get that ball.”
The 76ers may need a big game from Holiday if they hope to keep up against a Nuggets team that led the league with 104.1 points per contest last season.
Denver has won five of seven road matchups in this series – including a 108-104 overtime victory Jan. 18 behind 28 points, 10 assists and eight boards from Andre Miller.