PHILADELPHIA -- Heady times indeed in the City of Brotherly Love.
The 76ers, coming off what many believe was the best off-season re-tooling among the NBA's 30 teams, opened the 2008-09 season as not much more than a mildly entertaining warmup act for the Philadelphia Phillies in their quest to win their first World Series title in 28 years.
It all adds up to a party atmosphere, dampened only slightly by several days of rain. In a city that loves its professional sports as much as this one, it's going to take more than a little rain or even a huge miscalculation by Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig to totally kill the buzz.
The Sixers were doing their best to direct some of the celebratory atmosphere surrounding the Phillies their way.
Fans holding tickets to the conclusion of last night's suspended Game 5 of the World Seriers were being offered half-price tickets to the Sixers opener, which started about 21/2 hours before the Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays were set to square off in the resumption of their game.
And it wasn't like the fans had to go out of their way to take advantage of the offer. Citizens Bank Ballpark is just a couple of parking lots away from the 76ers home venue, the Wachovia Center.
Still the arena was anything but crowded last night, although there were plenty of Phillies jerseys in the stands.
Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell figured the Raptors were in for a rude welcome, whether the city was giddy over a World Series or not, when asked about it at the morning shootaround.
"We are going to get it tonight. Opening night, we are going to get it," Mitchell said. "Maybe they will be more riled up. Maybe they'll start here and then just mosey on over there," he said gesturing towards the ball park.
Turns out the lure of a good tailgate party was bigger than a season-opening NBA tilt.
LAST NIGHT AT PHILADELPHIA
Late in the second quarter, Jermaine O'Neal threw down a thunderous dunk and then turned to a section in the stands to point at a fan who had drawn his attention earlier.
"It was a fan that was tripping early," O'Neal said. "He was talking to me and I appreciate him because he really got me going. You always try to find someone to get that energy from, and I found three guys. They were talking about me not being in the game so I decided when I got back in I was going to find those guys."
MOON MAKES IT
Jason Kapono's defensive effort last night got singled out by coach Sam Mitchell.
"With all that athleticism they can put on the floor it was a luxury for us to be able to keep Kapono on the floor but he did his job. He has worked on his defence and he was on some quick guys."
like Louis Williams and Willie Green and he kept guys in front of him. To be able to play him and Anthony Parker together tonight was big for us because they are conscious of those two guys shooting the ball and they kept the floor spread for Jermaine and Chris."
Kapono's defensive liabilities a year ago kept this from happening but not last night.