So there I am, sitting around, minding my own business, when suddenly, this tweet pops up on my feed:
Oh boy. A roundtable discussion of the Sixers featuring the man who has called (by way of Grantland's Rafe Bartholomew) the Sixers a "ponzi scheme," lapsed Sixers fan Chris Ryan, and a blogger who used to live with Liberty Ballers Co-overlord Mike Levin (as opposed to the Coverlord, Bobby Covington). I was excited, in the same way I imagine many people are when you're driving on the Schuylkill Expressway and see that there's a car on fire. "LET'S STOP EVERYTHING WE'RE DOING AND LAUGH."
So, as such, I'm proud to present the first ever Liberty Ballers EMERGENCY SHOOTAROUND! (For legal purposes, this is a parody!)
Here's The Proper Reaction To This Post Popping Up On Your Newsfeed While At Work
Here's A Bunch Of Things We Think About This Podcast
God, where to begin?
OK, let's start right from the beginning of Sixers-based discussion, around the 14-minute mark of this delight, which is where I have the biggest problem.
Simmons: How did the Philly owners and front office brainwash the Sixers fans into being all-in on what they're doing?
This is a simple answer: the front office and owners haven't done anything wrong yet. This is the easy part of the rebuild, the part with no promises except the promise of a better tomorrow. What makes fans turn on front offices? Stupidity. Things that defy explanation. Promising one thing and delivering another. Failing to meet expectations. (All of those are excellent subtitles for Ruben Amaro's yet-to-be published autobiography.)
The Sixers have been totally upfront about what they're doing. There's not brainwashing anyone, just showing simple honesty. Simmons has been concern-trolling for a year about how they're being unfair to their ticket holders by charging major league prices for a Triple A-product, and while I agree with him that the rent is too damn high (and wrote about it before the season), season ticket holders aren't contractually bound to this team forever. If they don't want to watch the product, they're allowed to sit these years out.
One other thing from the podcast revolves around simple math. It's hard to get an NBA superstar, and teams that don't have one often spend years trying to find one. The Sixers have spent the last decade trying to acquire a legitimate top-10 cornerstone player. The crew makes reference to the famed "Thunder Model," a mythical ideal where teams plan on acquiring three Hall-Of-Famers in consecutive years. While that's a great ideal to strive for, anyone running a basketball team who says "we're following the Thunder model" is out of their mind.
The Sixers are trying to create their own model, because most teams who are truly successful forge a path on their own. They take elements from successful organizations (The Spurs player development system or the Rockets philosophy on advanced statistics and asset collection, and Oklahoma City's youthful foundation), but ultimately, if you're following someone else's road map, they've already mined the gold on that road.
To win in this league, you need elite talent, and the Sixers have put themselves in a position to find it both with draft position and with an accumulation of draft picks. In fact, a smart writer I used to know advocated this plan almost to the letter. They should get this guy his own podcast.
- Matt Carey
Random Celtics Interlude
"I'm not saying that Kelly Olynyk is the next Dirk Nowitzki. But he can be like a Kevin Love with a little more defense and a little less rebounding."
Charles Ponzi’s Sixers Scheme
Let’s talk about the claims that the Sixers are the "NBA’s first Ponzi Scheme." First, Rafe Bartholomew should attempt to trademark that phrase, because it’s been used so, so much. Second, here’s the definition of a Ponzi Scheme, per the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC, not the Kentucky kind).
Let’s break it down sentence by sentence – with the definition noted in italics:
1. A Ponzi scheme is an investment fraud that involves the payment of purported returns to existing investors from funds contributed by new investors." Hmmm. So "returns" to "existing investors" from "funds" "contributed" by "new investors" huh? This makes no sense in the context of the current Sixers team, or any basketball or sports team, in basically any shape or fashion. But let’s keep going with the definition. I’m sure there must be more here...
2. "Organizers often solicit new investors by promising to invest funds in opportunities claimed to generate high returns with little or no risk." Okay, so here’s something. The Sixers are investing resources into getting low-risk picks and higher draft picks. The difference between this and the Sixers? The Sixers’ returns, both in a vacuum and compared to competitors, are open for the public to see. It’s not a Ponzi scheme if there’s an open market to measure the returns and investments made.
3."In many Ponzi schemes, the fraudsters focus on attracting new money to make promised payments to earlier-stage investors to create the false appearance that investors are profiting from a legitimate business." – if the Sixers had done this, they’d have taken up the season ticket holder false promise idea Simmons had during the podcast – the "get in now before the getting is good!" idea. That is, if they were running a Ponzi scheme, they’d follow Simmons’ advice!
The Sixers are not a Ponzi scheme, or remotely close to one. The only reason this has any usefulness is because the word "fraud," used to describe sports figures ranging from Alex Rodriguez to Lennay Kekua, is thrown around like candy on Halloween. Recklessly and cavity-inducing. The word just doesn't have the oomph that it used to – "Ponzi Scheme" is stronger and, just as importantly, just a little bit tangentially related to what these people attempt to convey, in like describing a pear and a banana are the same thing because both are fruit.
The Sixers aren’t making promises – Sam Hinkie routinely drops phrases like "optionality" which acknowledge that yes, his risks may fail. He openly talks about playing the numbers right to have the best chance, but he never guarantees success. Hinkie hedges so much and promises so little that local media members complain he doesn’t give enough information away for them to do their jobs.
Alas, unfortunately the expression might not disappear soon, because most people still have no f***ing idea what a Ponzi Scheme really is.
- Sean O'Connor
Evan Turner Is Still Not Good Now (via Basketball-Reference)
No, no he's not. Just click on that link. You'll See.
A Brief Question and Answer For National Writers Who Arrived Here Via Google
When did the Sixers hire Sam Hinkie and begin rebuilding?
The Sixers hired Sam Hinkie on May 14, 2013. They then traded Jrue Holiday on June 27, officially kicking off the rebuild. For those of you scoring at home, that is less than two calendar years, and only two basketball seasons, not three. The oft-mentioned third year of the rebuild was not in fact a rebuilding year, but a win-now effort helmed by always a winner, never a champion, and as a result, current ESPN analyst and friend of Bill Simmons, Doug Collins.
- Matt Carey
Wasting Three Seasons in 23 Months Seems Impossible, But Don't Let the Facts Deter You
Sharp: Every [move] is completely defensible within a vacuum, until you look up and realize you've wasted three years.
The Bynum trade was executed by
Tony DiLeo/Rod Thorn/Doug Collins, and although that feels like the prehistoric age now, that wasn't even three years ago. So while we're pretending the blood is somehow on Hinkie's hands for giving up Lord and Savior Nikola Vucevic, we might as well knock on him for the Iverson trade, too. I mean, really, who knows; Ivan McFarlin could have really been something if they hadn't given up on him so fast.
Anyway: looking at a team's record, seeing a low winning percentage, and thus deeming that year "wasted" is what got the Sixers into this position in the first place.
It isn't recognized enough by the anti-Sixers faction that no team has undergone a rebuilding process like this before, and that in watching the team on a regular basis, you see the positives cropping up. And that's not because of their blatancy and self-righteous belief that this is the best path to take - as you've probably noticed, the anti-Sixers faction has fixated itself on this aspect plenty - it's because of the investment in actually developing players and giving them a chance to succeed.
Other forms of short-term success are sprouting up all around us: Jerami Grant is morphing into a capable NBA shooter, Nerlens Noel is constructing a faceup game and Robert Covington is blossoming into what one day could be a masterfully undervalued find out of the D-League. This idea that short-term success/progress and winning have to be mutually exclusive has got to go. Just because it isn't 38 wins doesn't mean it's a waste.
It seemed like maybe we were seeing this in Orlando under Rob Hennigan, but someone must have gotten cold feet, because Willie Green and Ben Gordon are playing major rotation minutes over Maurice Harkless, and they're paying Channing Frye $32 million through 2018 to play ahead of or instead of Aaron Gordon.
The Sixers don't want to be the Hornets or the Wizards or even the Magic. They don't want to rush into a competitive window and pay Nene, Marcin Gortat and Kris Humphries - all of whom are at least the age of 30 - 44% of the cap just to sell themselves as a semi-contender in a downtrodden conference. They don't want their future pinned on 30-year-old Al Jefferson. They want to take their time to build a team of young players they believe can eventually compete for titles perennially and have the fortune of owners with the patience to see this through.
- Wesley Share
Players We Hope The Celtics Draft, Ranked
- Frank Kaminsky
Beware The Wet Blanket: Keep Andrew Sharp Away From Vegas
In the middle of Chris Ryan's come-to-
Jesus Hinkie moment, everyone's least favorite former Levin roommate decided to air his biggest grievance with the Sixers rebuild.
Sharp: My problem with it is that the fans don't talk about it like it's a gamble. They talk about it like this is a blueprint, and Hinkie knows exactly what he's doing, and we are going to be title contenders by 2018.
This sounds very much like Sharp takes what Levin says as representative of the entire fan base -- most of us speak in degrees of uncertainty. But this isn't exactly a Sharp original. The party line for Sixers dissenters over the last couple seasons is the age old question, "What if it doesn't work out?" Not exactly splitting-the-atom level theory, but in the interest of fairness I'll consider the idea.
Here's my issue: this might be the most vanilla complaint of all time. You could apply this to any number of situations with varying degrees of consequence and likelihood. What if you tried something new at your favorite restaurant and it was violently offensive to your taste buds? What if Anthony Davis' people turned their UFO around and decided Earth was unsuitable for his talents? What if LeBron James' mileage finally hits its breaking point and he has to overcome a serious injury?
I hear takes like Sharp's all the time, and all I can think to myself is "Who goes through life like that?" I know sports media and fandom has grown to the point that minutiae is the subject of longform, but am I supposed to be living in crippling fear of things not working out all the time?
I've stood elbow-to-elbow with guys like this at craps tables, telling his buddy how it can go wrong while the dice are out. Nobody likes people who stand at the rail babbling like risk management advisers -- not the boxperson, not the players, not the manager walking the floor. They kill the vibe, get a boatload of side-eyes and eventually are the cause for exodus.
Basketball fandom and gambling have one major thing in common: it's supposed to be fun! Yes, Sixers fans have considered, debated and typed in all caps about the likelihood of things working out in the team's favor. But we're not willing to walk away from the table when bets are out and the shooter still has the dice.
As my buddy J-Bug would say, sometimes you just gotta let it ride.