PHILADELPHIA – Wayne Ellington was honing his skills on the playgrounds of Philadelphia at the same time Allen Iverson was emerging as a Philadelphia legend.
The year Iverson was leading the 76ers to the NBA Finals, Ellington was in the seventh grade.
During Iverson’s last full season with Philadelphia, Ellington was ranked as the No. 1 shooting guard in the country as a senior at The Episcopal Academy in Newtown Square, Pa., northwest of Philadelphia.
Soon after Ellington left Philadelphia to attend North Carolina, Iverson was traded from Philadelphia to Denver.
“I was more of an AI fan than a Sixer fan,” Ellington said today after the Heat’s shootaround at Temple University to prepare for tonight’s Game 1 of the playoffs against the Sixers.
“I grew up watching AI on Comcast. It was amazing what he did for the culture and Philly. He brought a lot of people together. I’m a big Allen Iverson fan, but I’m sure he’ll be there rooting for the 76ers tonight. So, he’s on the other side.”
Ellington’s first meaningful playoff game of his career comes in his hometown on the court where Iverson carved out a Hall of Fame career. Ellington is enjoying the best season of his eight-year career and enters as one of the most dangerous 3-point shooters in the league.
“It (is) unbelievable, honestly,” Ellington said about the Heat opening in Philadelphia. “I’ve been saying it, but you can’t really script something like that. It’s crazy that it happened like this.
“I knew it was a possibility (as the season wound down). And all my family was like, ‘Oh, you might be coming to Philly, you might be coming to Philly for playoffs.’ I said, ‘It’s up in the air right now, but I sure do hope so.’”
With Ellington being one of the more respected players on the team because of his work ethic and business-like approach to his job, coach Erik Spoelstra said Ellington’s teammates were excited for his opportunity.
“He’s one of those type of individuals that you want his story to play out this way because he’s pure and is all about the right things,” Spoelstra said. “He has a great energy about him. If this was in somebody else’s hometown he’d be the first one to enjoy someone else’s opportunity and success and that’s why everybody wants to breathe life into him and his game.
“I know it probably means something to him but he’s also level headed to know that there’s a task at hand and you can’t get distracted by the storyline.”
Ellington, who has played seven minutes in two career postseason games for Dallas in 2014, is as big a reason as any that Miami is here today and not in Boston. Ellington scored a career-high 32 points and made eight 3-point shots as the Heat defeated Toronto in overtime on Wednesday to secure the matchup. In the process, he became the franchise single-season record holder for 3-pointers, finishing the season with 227, surpassing Damon Jones, who had 225 in 2004-05.
If the Heat lost that game, they have faced Boston in the first round.
Ellington’s performance actually cost himself some money. He said he limited his ticket requests to 25, giving his mom the task of selecting which family members made the cut after he saved a few for his closest friends.
As for who is picking up the tab, he figures he’ll be stuck with the bill for some of those tickets. But it helps when you are making $6.27 million, which, by the way, was one of the biggest bargains in the league this season.
HEAT-SIXERS PLAYOFF STUFF