PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia 76ers are bringing back former stars Moses Malone and Dikembe Mutombo as part of their opening night festivities on Wednesday.
The stars return as the Sixers kick off the start of their 50th anniversary celebration. They will wear their new alternate blue uniforms, usually worn on the road, and every fan in the arena will receive a 50th anniversary blue T-shirt.
The Sixers also upgraded their overhead scoreboard so the entire box score will be displayed. Their biggest attraction won't be injured 7-footer Andrew Bynum, but their new 10-foot, 600-pound T-shirt launcher dubbed "Big Bella," which shoots 100 shirts between 15 and 20 seconds.
Sixers CEO Adam Aron says they also will parachute T-shirts and other merchandise or tickets from the top of the arena into the stands.
Andre Iguodala and Bynum will forever be linked in the same transaction.
The All-Stars weren't traded straight up — yes, it took four teams, 10 other players, and five draft picks to move Iguodala from Philadelphia to Denver and Bynum from the Los Angeles Lakers to the 76ers — but in Philly, the trade is viewed through a one-for-one prism.
Without a game played, Sixers fans say their team came out on top.
While Bynum remains indefinitely sidelined with a bone bruise in his right knee, the Sixers faithful would have traded Iguodala for some warm bodies to fill the training camp roster.
Credit general manager Tony DiLeo and team president Rod Thorn for getting so much more for Iguodala, a player who had come to represent the mediocrity that plagued the Sixers until last season's surprising run to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Iguodala was a solid player for nine seasons with the Sixers, playing a full 82 games in five of them, and was easily their top perimeter defender. He was one of the flashier dunkers in the league and his long road toward stardom was rewarded last season with his first All-Star berth and a gold medal in London playing for the star-studded U.S. men's team.
He was just never fully embraced by Philly fans.
His biggest moment came last season after Iguodala sank the winning free throws with 2.2 seconds left in a 79-78 victory over the top-seeded Chicago Bulls in Game 6, helping them advance to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs for the first time since 2003.
Iguodala hopped on the scorer's table and played to the crowd as the catchy 76ers' anthem blared in the arena.
The fans went wild and, for a moment, he was the most popular athlete in Philly.
It's the highlight the Sixers will surely play in a video tribute to Iguodala before the Nuggets open the season at Philadelphia on Wednesday night.
The video might be the only reason almost 20,000 fans don't boo him out of the building.
Iguodala criticized the way coach Doug Collins handled him and said he didn't enjoy basketball most of the last two seasons. He told CBSSports.com his enthusiasm from last season was dampened because he found criticism "draining."
Well, that won't endear him to anyone in his return to Philadelphia. Not that he cares.
"I really haven't thought about it," Iguodala said.
Asked in Denver if he hoped he'd be cheered, Iguodala said, "I really don't care. It's just basketball."
Collins, starting his third season coaching the 76ers, took the high road discussing Iguodala.
"He left on a very high note, which is the thing I'm very happy about," Collins said. "The two years that I was here, what we did, he was such a huge part of it. I'm sure Dre's going to want to come in here and win."
Iguodala's return will be overshadowed by Bynum's absence.
The 25-year-old Bynum will sit out the opener as he recovers from the bone bruise that has plagued him since before the start of training camp. Bynum was held out of all preseason activity and the Sixers ran their offense without him, instead of through him, for the last month.
Bynum told the Sixers he could play with the pain he's feeling. The Sixers are being cautious with Bynum and refuse to rush him back. They'd rather have the services of the center considered the best in the East for the long haul instead of a few games, or even a few weeks, at the start of the season.
Bynum is coming off his best NBA season after averaging career highs with 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds while making his first All-Star team, starting for the West. He was the NBA's third-leading rebounder and 20th-leading scorer, while also ranking sixth in the league with 1.93 blocked shots per game.
"I know one thing, I know he wants to play right now," Collins said. "We have to really be smart in all the things we do in help him monitor that situation. Sometimes, an athlete's competitive heart can get the best of him."
The Sixers said Tuesday that Bynum has started low-impact conditioning work, and will be re-evaluated by medical personnel on a continuous basis. Bynum shot 3-pointers while his teammates egged him on following a late practice at the Wells Fargo Center.
"He's feeling a lot better and his spirits are better," Collins said Tuesday. "That's all positive stuff."
Collins said power forward Thaddeus Young and center Lavoy Allen will start.
They're a nice duo for sure, but the Sixers aren't an Atlantic Division contender without Bynum.