As the curtain rose in the room some 30 feet above the 76ers' practice court at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, media members went to the window to get a glance of what Sixers fans have been waiting to see for more than a month.
There on the court was center Spencer Hawes, planting hard on his left foot with no hesitancy or apprehension, and running through sets at the team's Tuesday practice as the Sixers (25-17) made ready for Wednesday's game at Indiana.
Hawes, who has missed 27 of the last 28 games with a strained left Achilles' tendon, is expected to be in the starting lineup for the first time since he played on Feb. 6 in the Sixers' 95-90 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers at the Wells Fargo Center.
Hawes had grown increasingly irritable with the slow-to-heal injury. Now, he is clearly upbeat about playing again.
"It felt good," Hawes said of his Achilles. "I've been waiting for this for a long time, to be out there with my teammates in a competitive setting, and it just felt good to be playing basketball again."
Hawes rejoins a Sixers team that struggled heading into the all-star break, at one point losing five straight games and eight of 10 overall. Once one of the better offensive teams in the league, the Sixers went 19 games without scoring 100 points.
However, the Sixers are currently riding a three-game winning streak, and they are 3-1 since the insertion of Evan Turner into the starting lineup in place of Jodie Meeks. They have averaged more than 104 points in their last three games, all victories, and they have won them by an average of 19 points.
Before he was injured, Hawes was having the most surprising season of any Sixer. Last season, Hawes needed 81 games to notch seven double-doubles. This season he has six, despite appearing in just 14 games.
The 23-year-old Hawes is averaging 10.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.
Coach Doug Collins said the Sixers will work Hawes in gradually. At least for the first week to 10 days, Hawes will be limited to just five minutes per quarter. Along with limiting his playing time, Hawes will also be prohibited, at first, from playing back-to-back games.
The Sixers host Miami on Friday and play at Chicago on Saturday.
"Who do you want to sit him out against, Miami or Chicago?" Collins said. "Pick your poison."
What Collins doesn't think will be an issue is fitting Hawes back into a starting lineup that has been modified since he last played.
"He gives us another guy out there who really facilitates," Collins said. "He's ball-friendly and he can space the floor. He's the type of guy, if the shot clock is expiring he can come and get the ball and shoot it himself, so he gives us a pressure release."
Before flying to Indianapolis, Collins, team owner Josh Harris, chief executive officer Adam Aron and president of basketball operations Rod Thorn huddled to discuss possible trade options. Collins said that he would be surprised if the Sixers made a significant move but did not rule out making a deal.
"I'd be shocked if we did anything big," Collins said.