There may not be much buzz locally for the Philadelphia 76ers' home opener on Saturday night, but Andre Iguodala's unheralded club already has shown early signs of being more competitive than expected.
Iguodala and the 76ers open a four-game homestand when they welcome the New Jersey Nets to the Wachovia Center.
Philadelphia (1-1) won only 35 games in 2006-07 and failed to make the playoffs for the second straight season. The 76ers signaled a rebuilding process on Dec. 19 when they traded perennial All-Star guard Allen Iverson to Denver.
Led by the emerging Iguodala, however, the 76ers went 30-29 after dealing Iverson and won 10 of their final 15 home games. On Wednesday, Philadelphia fell 106-97 at Atlantic Division champion Toronto, but bounced back with an impressive 96-85 win at Chicago on Friday.
Iguodala, who failed to agree on a multi-year extension with Philadelphia in the offseason, had 22 points, 10 rebounds and six assists against the Bulls. The talented forward scored 11 in the fourth quarter and also took turns guarding Chicago's Luol Deng and Ben Gordon.
"I was exhausted trying to switch off on both guys, and I was still trying to find a way to create on the offensive end," Iguodala said.
Andre Miller - acquired in the Iverson deal - scored a team-high 25 while Samuel Dalembert added 14 and 11 rebounds for Philadelphia, which enjoyed a 55-36 advantage on the boards.
"This is a confidence booster, something we can take home and build for tomorrow," Miller said.
One reason the Sixers struggled last season was that they played 22 of their first 33 games on the road, posting a 9-24 record. They play 14 of their next 21 games at home.
Philadelphia and New Jersey (1-1) split four games last season, with the home team winning all of them. Iguodala averaged 19.0 points and 9.0 assists in the three matchups since Iverson was dealt.
The Nets were routed 106-69 at home by Toronto on Friday, recording their lowest point total since scoring 68 points on Nov. 18, 2006 in a loss to Portland.
"We didn't play very well," Nets forward Richard Jefferson said. "To their credit, they shot the ball extremely well."
Nets star Vince Carter had a rough night, scoring only seven points after tallying 24 against the in a season-opening 112-103 win over the Bulls on Wednesday. Against Toronto, New Jersey shot just under 37 percent from the floor, and Jefferson was the only Net to reach double figures with 27 points.
"We took one straight in the mouth," Carter said.
It was the first time Carter failed to reach double figures since scoring nine while being primarily guarded by Iguodala in a 99-86 loss at Philadelphia on March 4. Carter averaged only 17.0 points on less than 34 percent shooting in the last three matchups against the Sixers last season.
Known more for his passing ability than scoring, New Jersey's Jason Kidd has 19 assists so far, but only nine points while taking nine shots. The All-Star guard averages 14.5 points per game in his career.
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