Heading into his first NBA season, Jonah Bolden was well aware of the environment he was entering.
The 76ers, in his words, were expected to be a “title-contending” team.
So, to a degree, he set his own expectations accordingly.
Has Bolden wanted to be with the big club as much as possible? Naturally.
But the big man also recognized he’d likely be playing a decent amount in the G League, in order to get live reps, and stay fresh.
“I’ve been spending time mostly on flights,” Bolden said Friday, referring to shuttling between the Sixers and Delaware Blue Coats.
All that mileage, however, proved its worth in the Sixers’ 126-101 victory over the Toronto Raptors.
With Wilson Chandler sidelined (quad), and Mike Muscala in early foul trouble, Brett Brown went to Bolden relatively early, about five minutes into regulation.
The rangy Australian didn’t disappoint, offering an immediate defensive spark by stuffing a Greg Monroe shot six seconds after he subbed in.
Over the next two minutes, Bolden proceeded to turn aside Danny Green and Kyle Lowry. By the end of the night, another veteran, C.J. Miles, would wind up on the Bolden block list.
The 6-foot-10 UCLA product snagged a career-high nine rebounds, too.
“He was huge defensively, blocking a lot of shots and offensively, getting to the rim,” Ben Simmons said of his fellow countryman. “I loved the way he came in and affected the game.”
Bolden’s 25 minutes were a personal high, and Friday was his 10th NBA appearance. Two days earlier, he had been in Las Vegas, suiting up for the Blue Coats in the annual G League Showcase.
“My whole mentality was knowing that whatever my role or position Coach had for me, I just had to do it,” said Bolden.
Relying on a combination of athleticism and positional versatility, the 22-year old was certainly ready when called upon.
Sooner or later, the Sixers were planning to get the 2017 no. 36 pick more involved in the rotation.
It ended up being sooner.
Brown said the Western Conference portion of the team’s upcoming road trip had been the initial target date for beginning to gradually grow Bolden’s role, but circumstances in Friday’s game changed the script.
“When you watch him run, he really can move he gets up and down the court,” Brown said. “I just loved his energy.”
In six outings with Delaware, Bolden has averaged 16.0 points (42.5 fg%), 11.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.5 steals. He said that his transition back and forth has been helped by the Blue Coats running the same sets as the Sixers do, and Delaware using him in the similar ways as the Sixers would.
“I’ve been back and forth from the G League. I’ve kind of embraced that, and used it to the best of my ability with a positive mindset, and used it in preparation for games like tonight.”
“He’s somebody that we’ve paid attention to for a while in relation to trying to get him on a court,” said Brown. “Tonight, he did a good job, and we felt it was his time.”