By Frank McLean
There is an argument between fans and sports reporters in North America on which is the worst run franchise in all of the major sports leagues, but if you are an NBA fan, especially in Philadelphia, everyone would agree it’s the 76ers.
The 76ers make their first visit of the season Sunday night at the Air Canada Centre and if you are an old time fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the 76ers look like the Harold Ballard run Maple Leafs of the 1970’s and 80’s.
Under General Manager Sam Hinkie the 76ers have acquired a grand total of 34 wins and 148 losses. His philosophy seems to be just keep losing games and acquiring draft picks and maybe get lucky and stumble across the next LeBron James or Stephen Curry.
The draft picks he has made, well 2014 first round pick Joel Embiid has yet to play a game and Daro Saric has yet to show up.
His 2015 first round pick Jahlil Okafor has already been suspended two games for off court incidents. First for getting into a fight outside a club in Boston in which he isn’t old enough to be in and then for getting pulled over by police for driving through Philadelphia at speeds over 100 miles per hour.
Hinkie hid when it came time to announce Okafor’s two game suspension and made his head coach Brett Brown come out and take questions from the local Philadelphia media.
If things work out right the 76ers could have 4 first round picks in the draft this June, but everybody has had enough with the mess with this basketball team and fans are screaming that they don’t want Hinkie anywhere near the draft table on draft night.
Agents are telling the 76ers not to draft their clients.
What Hinkie has done is make professional basketball irrelevant in the city of Philadelphia.
Owner Josh Harris (we think?) made the move on Monday to bring in USA Basketball head Jerry Colangelo as a special advisor to Harris. Colangelo’s job is to advise ownership on how to fix this mess of a basketball team that has taken Hinke two years to screw up. In his comments Monday, when introduced to the Philadelphia media Colangelo said all the right things not to center out the current regime.
“When I took over USA Basketball there needed to be a cultural change in USA Basketball and that happened, it took a little bit of time to put into effect,” Colangelo said. “Now it’s just rolling. It couldn’t be any better than it is in terms of interest of players who want to perform. They all want to play.
“It’s a process. I’m certainly aware of who’s on the court. I’m aware of second-round picks and free agents, guys who don’t have much of a track record. I’m here to assist in areas where I can already see things that I want to pass on to Sam. These are things, not that he hasn’t thought about them, when he hears them from me, he’s hearing them from a different perspective. Hopefully some of those things are going to be addressed.
“I think it’s been a learning experience for the ownership. They haven’t been in this business. This is a unique business. People can be successful selling widgets, real estate, whatever it may be, and much of that can be transferred into the sports world. But part of it is learning it’s a different culture. I think what they’re going through and experiencing is an adjustment.”
However, rumors around the league say this was not the decision of Harris, rather it came from the league office.
The NBA like any professional sports leagues is a business and as a business a league is only as good as the strength of their franchises. The perception is that the 76ers are not trying to put a competitive team on the floor and that’s not good for the league. So it’s believed the other 29 owners went to Commissioner Adam Silver to get him to help fix this mess in Philadelphia. The owners it seems were fed up with the 76ers not being able to compete in the NBA on a nightly basis.
It’s bad enough there are empty seats at the Wells Fargo Center for 76ers home games, but when the other 29 teams are hosting them they can’t sell seats to their home games with them. Also, when you have a team playing as bad as the 76ers you know television ratings will take a dive and that affects league revenues when the value of those local television rights drops with low ratings and advertisers looking to sell their products on other types of programming. So some sort of action had to be taken.
It doesn’t matter who got Jerry Colangelo to Philadelphia the fact is someone is there with the experience in basketball and professional sports that can get the ship turned around.
It took Sam Hinke two years to ruin pro basketball in Philadelphia. It’s going to take Colangelo double that to fix it. It will be interesting to watch.
Veteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.