The Philadelphia 76ers are just past the midway point of their season at 27-16, now in fourth place in the East, sitting just a half game behind the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks. And it’s that time of the year when Philly fans have plenty of both basketball and football on their minds.
Unless you’re Sixers Adam:
Not that anybody needs me to tell them this, but it is unbelievable how much joy I still derive every day from the 2022 Phillies playoff run. Every single day I watch highlights from at least a few games, and I still can’t believe any of it actually transpired. Such a magical run— Adam Aaronson (@SixersAdam) January 15, 2023
The hometown Eagles finished the regular season with the best record in the NFC and locked up the lone bye week and home field advantage.
And a new bit of news dropped about the current Sixers’ owner Josh Harris, apparently still looking to buy another pro sports franchise.
According to JP Finlay, of NBCS-Washington, Harris, the 76ers principal owner and managing partner might be a top candidate to buy the Eagles division rival, the Washington Commanders.
Commanders sale news, per multiple sources:— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayNBCS) January 17, 2023
- Sale expected to happen soon, maybe by March.
- Todd Boehly is out.
- Jeff Bezos likely out, but door not closed
- Josh Harris might be top candidate
Full story --> https://t.co/VHe1Fv9INn
As Finlay writes, the potential sale of the Commanders, now owned by the wildly unpopular Daniel Snyder, “‘will be over soon’ according to multiple sources speaking with NBC Sports Washington.” And it could all go down as soon as March, per the piece.
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon had been a favorite to make the purchase. But the man who upended retail as we all know it didn’t submit his proposal. And apparently “Dan and Tanya Snyder prefer not to sell their franchise to the Amazon founder,” Finlay details.
Another possible candidate in Todd Boehly has also pulled out of the bidding.
“That leaves Josh Harris, a D.C. native and the owner of the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils, as perhaps the top candidate to buy the Commanders,” Finlay writes.
We learned back in 2020, when many folks were hunkering down for a potential pandemic related recession, that Harris, also the principal owner of the New Jersey Devils hockey team, was interested in purchasing Major League Baseball’s New York Mets. David Blitzer, a minority owner of the Devils and 76ers and part of Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment was also reportedly part of that potential bid for the Phillies’ division rival. But it was Steve Cohen who landed the Queens, New York based team.
Last summer we learned that Harris was pursuing the Denver Broncos, and was willing to offer as much as $5 billion for majority ownership of the Colorado based NFL franchise; more than the reported amount it sold for, though he apparently felt confident he’d be outbid in the end so he bowed out. In that sell-off, it was uber-baller Rob Walton, son of Walmart founder Sam Walton, who landed controlling ownership of the Broncos, as part of a Walton-Penner family led group.
Though maybe Harris doesn’t mind losing that one after this season:
Russell Wilson: "Broncos Country.. Let's Ride!"— NFL Memes (@NFL_Memes) October 7, 2022
The Ride: pic.twitter.com/16KI1tUMdb
So Harris has been very active in bidding, and one gets the sense he’ll land another team eventually. Maybe with Bezos, Boehly, and others bowing out, the recently renamed Commanders are his next best chance.
The Sixers have a plan in place to relocate the team stadium from Wells Fargo Center in South Philly to a portion of the current site of Fashion District Philadelphia (near Chinatown and Washington Square West) by 2031.
Finlay’s piece notes that “further, among the remaining ownership candidates, there is a firm belief that a return to the RFK Stadium grounds in Washington is a real possibility.”
The Commanders play in Landover, Maryland. But maybe Harris is dreaming of a new stadium in D.C. proper, not far from where he grew up?
In the business world, titans of the industry often command respect based on how successful they’ve been, how much money they’ve made. But when they make the major decision to own a team, to join that exclusive club, then they enter another realm entirely where fans are insanely passionate and obsess over every small and big decision.
‘Oh you tripled the value of your purchase in a decade? Nobody cares, is Filip Petrusev coming over, yes or no?’
And in that world, in that alternative universe, you’re basically regarded by fans as a winner or a loser and there’s not often a ton of in between. The Holts (in San Antonio) are winners. Joe Lacob of the Golden State Warriors is regarded as a winner. James Dolan of the Knicks on the other hand...well, you get the gist. And Harris, let’s face it, has not been very popular among Sixer fans, ever since it started to become clear how much of a disaster the post Sam Hinkie, pre-Daryl Morey years were unfolding.
As Elton Brand once admitted honestly, heartbreakingly, the “collaboration days didn’t work too well.” If they’d just hired a decent GM back in 2016 or at the very least 2018, they might have dodged some problems they still haven’t been able to recover from.
So you can already hear the peanut gallery chiming in for this one, can’t you? Could they let a $3M Sixer go to skirt the tax all to up and buy a $5B sports team?! It hasn’t happened but fans are wondering.
“They trade picks, they’ve sold picks for cash,” as folks like ESPN’s Zach Lowe have pointed out over the years. Others like ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, and Ramona Shelburne, or Yahoo’s Jake Fischer have all at different times last summer made clear that they felt the guaranteed money Doc Rivers was still owed would at least play a factor in the team’s decision to retain their largely unpopular head coach’s services.
So while few would accuse the Sixers owners (who’ve paid luxury taxes in each of the last couple seasons) of being spend-averse, they’re not immune to criticism.
The image of Harris on the phone, selling second-round picks that could have been used on exciting prospects, then departing draft night in a helicopter is basically a Game of Zones episode that just hasn’t aired yet.
Marc Stein on his Substack hinted that one of Korkmaz or 2021 first round pick Jaden Springer could be moved “in hopes of shedding luxury-tax dollars.”
If they returned someone who could help them win a title? Great. But if they’re just dumping dudes to drum up cash, then fans will really be upset. Is that why they didn’t keep Isaiah Joe or Charles Bassey?
As Sixers super fan and Twitter sleuth Francis Parker might put it:
I loved Joe and liked Bassey. If cutting them both lets the Sixers do something cool at the trade deadline, I get it. If it’s to duck the tax, they’ve made a very powerless enemy.— Francis Parker (@franciszomes) November 24, 2022
ESPN’s Kevin Pelton even hilariously, non-ironically, wrote a piece about what each contender “needs most to improve their championship odds.” What did he come up with for Philadelphia? Another two-way wing? Eric Gordon? Jae Crowder? Mike Muscala? A Tobias Harris to Dallas mega deal? A Harris plus Tyrese Maxey for Paul George double, super mega deal?
The biggest thing they need to improve their title odds is... saving their billionaire owner some money? pic.twitter.com/PJGf9tNsXU— Bryan Toporek (@btoporek) January 12, 2023
The Bucks got “a healthy Khris Middleton,” the Suns got “better play from Deandre Ayton.” Philly got “tax relief.” Nothing helps a team win in June like...spending less, right Windy?
“They have a $340 million payroll, you just don’t have to beat the Warriors on the court, you gotta beat their checkbook…this was a checkbook win for the Warriors” pic.twitter.com/3OzI3Jc0pX— Gifdsports (@gifdsports) June 14, 2022
So this narrative that the Sixers are riding Embiid’s third consecutive MVP caliber season while looking to cut costs has taken on a life of its own already.
Before I even decided to write this piece I already heard at least 23 “oh good the Sixers can slip under the luxury tax at the deadline all so that the team can buy the Commanders” gags. Can you imagine a team with Joel Embiid, James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, adding Chase Young, Terry McLaurin, and Jahan Dotson?
(In all seriousness, I won’t be mad if the Sixers do temporarily reset the tax for one season as long as they actually improve the team in the process, or at least land an enticing prospect - like a Cam Reddish).
It would be pretty interesting if Harris owned an Eagles rival. With our luck, he’d hire Sam Hinkie back to run the Commanders and turn them into a force within the division. Apparently Sam has done some consulting for NFL teams here and there over the years. Analytics has worked out pretty well for Dougie Pederson hasn’t it? Someone have him call Doc to expound their virtues.
And here’s a strange twist. If Harris did land the Commanders, he could feel much better about his quarterback situation (2022 fifth-rounder Sam Howell) than if he’d bought the Broncos (Russell Wilson). And maybe he’d change their name one more time too. I still can’t get used to saying Commanders.