Sticking up for 76ers management

Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Members of the media and fans alike are turning against 76ers management with the way the Bynum trade, and season, has unfolded. This is my support for the moves they have made to bring us to this point.

Last night FanSince09 went off on the 76ers CEO Adam Aron on twitter. I have the entire conversation embedded below, which you can read if you wish. I don't want it at the top of the article because it's a lot to read, and also because it's not necessary for the point I'm trying to make.

To summarize, he chastised Aron for his gimmicks and rah-rah support of the team, claimed dishonesty over Bynum, that Philadelphia isn't a destination because nobody likes playing for Doug Collins, and criticized the doctor that evaluated Bynum, among other things.

It's all a bigger part of the overall hostility directed towards anything related to the 76ers as this season goes from bad to awful.

And, to be honest, I don't think it's (mostly) deserved.

Adam Aron is a marketing executive

I started saying very early on during Aron's twitter days this his shtick was going to get old, especially when the team fell on rough times. Rough times have come, and lo and behold fans no longer give a darn about Aron being available on twitter and now instead want to hold him accountable for anything that has gone wrong with the team.

But he's a marketing guy. That's what he does. What do you expect him to say on twitter, that Bynum's dogging it and you shouldn't come see the games? Why would you expect honest basketball analysis from him? Even if you get honest basketball analysis from him, is anything he thinks personnel wise really relevant?

One of the things I love about this ownership group is they know what they don't know. They're going to let Doug Collins and Tony DiLeo make the basketball decisions on the squad and they're going to worry about t-shirt canons and ticket giveaways. Might it get annoying when all you see on twitter are ticket giveaways and rah-rah basketball "analysis"? Yeah, I can get that. But that doesn't mean they should be doing otherwise.

The 76ers should improve the in-game experience

Again, I've complained about their focus on in-game experience at times. I joked last year when Aron talked about how in the playoffs we were going to be treated to the best pre-game video we've ever seen. The playoffs, and we're talking about a video montage?! The Revolutionaries are a terrible, terrible idea.

But people are acting like it's either improve what's on the court or improve the in-game experience, and that's not the case. Again, Aron is a marketing executive. He's not stealing focus away from basketball operations. He's not making these changes at the expense of improving the team.

They're also not sitting idly by hoping to magically become good at basketball. We stressed it at the beginning of the season but only 5 players returned from last years squad. The moves haven't worked out, but it's not like they worked on the fan atmosphere and ignored the basketball court.

Obviously, improving the in-game atmosphere means nothing if the play on the court doesn't match. Nobody is debating what is more important, not even Aron himself. But there's absolutely nothing wrong with improving the in-game experience as well.

This isn't an attempt to improve the in-game experience to draw attention away from the on-court failure, this is trying to improve both in parallel. The only reason the in-game experience is getting any negative attention is because the bold moves they made in the offseason to improve the on-court performance haven't panned out.

The team is not risk averse

One of the things FanSince09 hit Aron for was an intimation that Aron saying they feel bad about losing isn't enough.

Yet this was a team that was, literally, a game away from the Eastern Conference Finals. This was a very easy thing to overrate, and it was very easy for this team to become blinded by how close they were. This had the *perfect* setup to stay the course and never get back that far for half a decade.

But they recognized they had reached that rosters potential, that they didn't have much in the way of flexibility to improve, and they took a risk. They took a financial risk by using the amnesty on Brand and using the money they saved on Nick Young and Lavoy Allen, and they took an on the court risk by trading away their best player for a huge injury risk, someone whom we knew was an injury risk at the time.

They had all the reason in the world not to take those risks. If they were only about getting fans in the seats and making money they probably don't make those moves. Playoff ticket money is very alluring, and that team had a reasonably good shot of making the playoffs (and doing absolutely nothing in them) for the next 3-4 years.

This was the downside to making the deal. Every reason we had to fear that the new ownership group would overvalue limited upside / limited downside was shown in this deal. Because the downside sucks.

Kwame Brown and Spencer Hawes are irrelevant

Another point that is being thrown about are the contracts to Kwame Brown and Spencer Hawes. They're bad, don't misinterpret that, especially Kwame Brown (Hawes I think is both movable and could have a role on this team as a backup).

But they're completely irrelevant.

If Andrew Bynum were playing right now, Hawes would actually be a decent 15 minute per game insurance policy off the bench and Kwame would be that spot player who comes in for certain matchups. Nobody would care. They're relevant because Bynum has yet to play a minute for the team.

Doug Collins is not the reason Philadelphia isn't a destination

Superstars go to teams via free agency for 3 reasons, basically:

- Money. Money is always good.

- To play with another superstar / win a championship

- Location

These are the reasons free agents are not flocking to Philadelphia. These are the reasons players didn't flock to Philadelphia before Doug Collins, these are the reasons players are not flocking to Philadelphia now, and these are the reasons players will not flock to Philadelphia when Doug Collins leaves.

Implying otherwise is just disingenuous.

The risk was worth it

The one point to him I will somewhat concede is to question how honest they've been with us about Bynum. What did our doctors find in his physical before the trade was finalized? Was the bone bruise before training camp a result of damaged knees that should have been picked up or was it a fluke? How could they have expected he would return in 3 weeks after the bone bruise? Have they been completely forthright with information on Bynum's timetable?

All very legitimate questions.

But, to me, that only really affects our expectations. Almost regardless of what the team saw in Bynum's knees before the trade, I make that move, and I'm glad the 76ers did.

Let's look at the three possible scenarios that now seem like they could have been legitimate outcomes of the Bynum deal / no deal: 1) Acquire Bynum, he gels with Holiday and they turn the 76ers into a legitimate contender, or at least look like they're on their way to becoming a legitimate contender. 2) Bynum never plays a game with the 76ers and walks after this season. 3) They Keep Iguodala.

To me, the first 2 scenarios are both better than not making the trade.

It's what we've been arguing about here for the longest time. Being mediocre sucks. It's quicksand that's virtually impossible to get out of. Retaining an Iguodala who is beginning to have some serious mileage on his legs, while we're capped out, with a team too good to get a meaningful pick but not good enough to be relevant.

That's everything I don't want in a basketball team.

But what we're finding out now is that being mediocre is better, for an ownership group, than being bad. Casual fans will tolerate 41-41 with a first round playoff exit, it's the diehards like us, the ones who truly understand how hard it is to get out of that position, who will knock that approach.

But if you do what we've been advocating doing -- tanking, clearing cap space, or taking a risk to get out of that quicksand -- you run the risk of disillusionment from the majority of the fan base. And that's far more costly -- both in the court of public opinion and on the bottom line -- than being mediocre.

This is what I argued about last year. This is why front offices are risk averse and embrace "relevancy" (aka mediocrity).

So, even though nothing about the Bynum trade has worked out to date I will continue to praise management for the willingness to take the risk. I do not believe they are out of touch, I do think they care about winning, and I do think the move was made for the right reasons.

Can we both complain about teams overvaluing their own circumstantial success last year during an everything-go-right postseason AND complain that the risk they took to try to take the next step hasn't worked out?

It's fine to be frustrated. I'm frustrated as well. And I'm sure Tony DiLeo, Joshua Harris, Adam Aron and Doug Collins are even more frustrated.

I'd rather an ownership group avoid the lure of playoff revenue and perceived relevance and shoot for actual relevance instead. That's what they did this offseason, and I support that move, even if it doesn't work out.

Twitter conversation between Adam Aron and FanSince09.

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