After his contract got bought out by the Atlanta Hawks, 10-year NBA veteran Ersan Ilyasova decided to sign with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Since then, the Sixers have gone 3-2 and he has played an important role off the bench. In fact, he’s logged 20.6 minutes per contest and has put up 9.4 points and 4.0 rebounds per contest.
In a win on February 2, he posted 18 points, four rebounds and three assists in just 23 minutes against the Charlotte Hornets at home. Then, on February 6, he had 11 points and six boards in 24 minutes in a victory over the Hornets on the road. Those were his two most notable outings so far, but he's been asked to play solid minutes in each contest.
Essentially taking over for Trevor Booker (who was released by the Sixers after Ilyasova’s signing) in coach Brett Brown’s rotation, Ilyasova will most likely play an important role down the stretch since he has an ability to back up both Joel Embiid and Dario Saric at either frontcourt position.
However, it appears as though Ilyasova was very close to signing with another team.
“We had spoken with (Bucks GM) Jon Horst and (Bucks head coach) Joe Prunty on the phone kind all of those days when I was available,’’ Ilyasova told Gary Woelfel of Woefel’s Press Box. “There were some other teams in the mix, too. But, yes, I was interested in coming to Milwaukee.’’
Ilyasova started his career with the Bucks after they selected him in the second round of the 2005 NBA Draft.
“It was close, really close,’’ Ilyasova admitted. “The money was similar (between Milwaukee and Philadelphia). Money wasn’t a choice, though. It was playing time and being in a comfortable situation.’’
Due to the return of Jabari Parker and the presence of John Henson and Thon Maker in Milwaukee, Ilyasova believed that his path to substantial playing time was more reasonable in Philadelphia, where he played last season.
“It was a big decision to make, choosing Philadelphia over Milwaukee,’’ said Ilyasova, who even has a home in the Milwaukee area, per Woelfel. “But I played with them (the 76ers) last year and I kind of knew what to expect, I kind of knew the rotations and I knew coach (Brett) Brown. I feel very comfortable here.’’
Since the Bucks have struggled to receive consistent production from Maker and Henson and have generally struggled to make an impact from the perimeter this season, Ilyasova could have potentially made a huge impact there.
But, the Sixers won out in the end. It remains to be seen if he can propel Philadelphia into the playoffs and beyond.