CLEVELAND — If Joel Embiid had his wish, Thursday night wouldn’t have marked Ersan Ilyasova’s first game back with the 76ers.
“I thought we should have kept him last year and re-signed him this summer,” Embiid said Thursday morning. “But I’m glad that he’s back, and I’m excited.”
Ilyasova re-signed with the Sixers on Wednesday night. He saw action Thursday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quickens Loans Arena. He produced six points, two rebounds, and two assists in 18 minutes of action in the Sixers’ victory.
The Turkish player had a lot of success with the Sixers after being acquired on Nov. 1, 2016, from the Oklahoma City Thunder, along with a 2020 first-round draft pick, for Jerami Grant. Ilyasova averaged 14.8 points and 5.9 rebounds and shot 35.9 percent on three-pointers in 53 games, including 40 starts, with the Sixers.
However, he was in the final season of his contract and wanted his next deal to be for multiple years. The Sixers were willing to give him only a one-year deal for the 2017-18 season. Unable to reach an agreement, the team traded him to the Atlanta Hawks on Feb. 22, 2017, with a 2017 second-round pick, for Tiago Splitter and two 2017 second-round picks.
“One side you have to understand that it’s completely business,” said Ilysaova, who didn’t want to be traded. “Even in the summer, I was kind of openly ready to come if something would come up with them [in free agency]. Unfortunately, it didn’t.”
“But that’s life; sometimes you have to accept those things and get something positive out of it.”
After not hearing from the Sixers, he re-signed with the Hawks over the summer. The sharpshooter was bought out of his contract with Atlanta on Monday, leading to his re-signing with the Sixers.
This time around, his role will be different. The Sixers will look at him primarily as a backup power forward so they can continue to develop Dario Saric as their starter.
Ilyasova is elated nonetheless. This gives him a chance to help the Sixers make their first playoff appearance since 2012.
“This is another opportunity to be a part of it,” he said. “… It’s an exciting part of the year. You play for a playoff spot. Hopefully, we do that and make some damage.”