CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Ersan Ilyasova looked worn down Wednesday night, sitting in front of his locker with his feet in a bucket of ice and ice packs wrapped around his knees.
That’s no surprise, considering what Ilyasova had gone through in the past 24 hours.
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But the 6-foot-10 forward dug in deep when the Sixers needed him to, scoring 14 points in 24 minutes off the bench in Wednesday’s 109-93 loss to the Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum Center (see Instant Replay).
Ilyasova made 5 of 12 from the field (including 2 of 6 on three-pointers), pulled down three rebounds and added three assists for the Sixers – all coming after joining his new team less than 18 hours earlier.
“It is what it is, man,” said Ilyasova, now with his fifth NBA team since being selected as the 36th overall pick in the 2005 draft by the Milwaukee Bucks. “That’s the NBA. You have to be professional no matter what. Obviously, the trade happened and everything kind of fell in one day.
“We have a good group of guys, we played well as far as sharing the ball. I just tried to help as far as just being in the right place offensively.”
Ilyasova’s day began with a flight from Oklahoma City to Charlotte, arriving in the city around 1 a.m. Wednesday. He underwent a physical exam at 8 a.m. to finalize the trade, then met with Sixers coach Brett Brown and other team officials over breakfast.
By noon, Ilyasova was preparing for Wednesday night’s game, watching game tape of the Hornets and even earlier Sixers games. At 4 p.m., three hours before tipoff, he was at the Spectrum Center, working out with coaches and some of his new teammates.
“Obviously, there were a lot of things to learn offensively,” Ilyasova said.
While Brown admitted during his pregame meeting with the media that he planned on playing Ilyasova against the Hornets, he was forced to go to the Sixers’ new acquisition earlier than planned after Jahlil Okafor picked up two fouls in a 30-second span early in the first quarter.
“At the beginning of the game, we got in foul trouble, so I was kinda preparing myself,” Ilyasova said. “When I got the opportunities, I stepped up out on the floor.”
Ilyasova’s first shot led to his first points – a three-pointer with 7 minutes, 23 seconds remaining in the first quarter. But his biggest contribution came in the second quarter, as the Sixers turned a 26-26 tie at the end of the first period into a 53-46 halftime lead.
Ilyasova tipped in a Okafor miss with 4:28 left to put the Sixers up 46-36, their first double-digit lead, then followed that with a layup 27 seconds later. He went on to score six points in the period, the last on a pair of free throws with 1:34 left that were the Sixers’ final points of the half.
“I think we did a really good job as far as just continuing to stay in the game in the first half,” Ilyasova said.
But things began falling apart for the Sixers in the second half. Led by Nicolas Batum’s 17 third-quarter points, the Hornets outscored the Sixers 39-20 in the period, turning what had been a seven-point Sixers lead into a 85-73 Charlotte lead.
The Hornets’ biggest lead came midway through the fourth quarter – 18 points, at 102-84, on Marvin Williams’ layup with 6:17 remaining.
“We couldn’t score at the beginning of the second [half], and it was a huge key to losing the game for us,” Ilyasova said. “We have to come out more ready right out of the gates at halftime and prepare ourselves. Those things are going to cost us moving forward.”
Ilyasova has a little more time to get used to his new teammates before the Sixers’ next game – Saturday night against the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
“We’ve got some really good potential here,” Ilyasova said. “But we have to stick together, no matter what. Obviously, this was a tough loss. We’re 0-4, but I think we can find ourselves and get in a good position.”
Brown can already see the potential of what the Sixers' newest acquisition can provide.
“I thought Ersan was good,” Brown said. “For just walking into a breakfast room this morning and coming onto the court and playing with our guys, you can see why we were attracted to him. I think he’s going to be an excellent complement to what we have.”