Adam Aron: Sixers haven’t misled fans

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Adam Aron: Sixers haven’t misled fans

Andrew Bynum hasn’t played a game for the Sixers. It’s possible he won’t ever appear on the court for them. Because of that, some fans and media members have accused the Sixers of misleading people -- and perhaps even knowingly withholding information -- about Bynum’s situation in order to sell tickets and merchandise.

On Monday, in an interview with Comcast SportsNet, Aron denied that was the case.

“The notion that we’ve been hiding his condition, it’s all revisionist history,” Aron said. “When the trade was made, we all expected him to play. As the season unfolded, we expected him to come back. Even three weeks ago, Andrew himself was saying that he’d be playing after the All-Star break. It clearly hasn’t happened. It hasn’t been good for the team. It hasn’t been good for ticket sales. It hasn’t been good for the fan base. Nobody is happy about this. Andrew himself is frustrated that he hasn’t been able to show off his stuff for the fans of Philadelphia. But you play the hand you’re dealt, and this year we have to play the hand of Andrew Bynum’s injured knees.”

Critics and skeptics have pointed to the fact that the Sixers have used Bynum’s likeness in advertisements promoting the team. As you head south on I-95, there’s an electronic billboard near Lincoln Financial Field with a picture of Bynum and a message that single-game tickets are still available. Aron acknowledged that the billboard exists but insisted that it’s an unfortunate error.

“The billboard that you just described was a mistake by the billboard company that picked up some art from months ago,” Aron said. “We would have to be really stupid to intentionally put up a billboard right now that says ‘single-game tickets on sale’ with Andrew Bynum’s face on that billboard.”

The company handling the Sixers' billboard account confirmed Aron's comment, saying that it made an unintentional error by placing Bynum's image on the advertisement.

Aron’s explanation aside, some fans did buy tickets and Bynum jerseys under the assumption -- the same one that Aron mentioned above -- that the center would play at some point this season. That obviously hasn’t happened. Did the people who invested their money to attend Sixers games or purchase merchandise get a raw deal?

“I think we’ve all gotten a raw deal -- everybody connected with the 76ers this year because the Philadelphia 76ers are 23-35 as we sit here recording this interview,” Aron replied. “Back in the summer, we were being told that we pulled off the best trade that Philadelphia sports has seen in decades. ... People were euphoric that we brought a superstar to Philadelphia.

“Going back to the notion about our transparency with our fans, we’ve made Andrew Bynum available to the media just about every week now for two, three months. He’s done a lot of talking, but, unfortunately, what people don’t really want to see is talk. What they want to see is him in a Sixers uniform with No. 33 on the back, on the floor in the middle of a game playing as well as Andrew Bynum has traditionally played. And until that happens, the frustration is going to be high.”

In August, shortly after the trade was consummated, the Sixers held a public press conference at the National Constitution Center to introduce Bynum and Jason Richardson to Philadelphia. Since then, detractors have referenced the event as an example of everything that’s been wrong with this season -- a pomp and pageantry affair that trumpeted a player who still hasn’t played.

“It is so ludicrous to think that press conference was a mistake,” Aron responded. “That press conference –- this was the one at the National Constitution Center where we invited the fans to come and we introduced Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson to the city -- there was a reason why 1,500 fans showed up at the National Constitution Center. It’s because it was perceived at the time, based on what we all knew -– what the fans knew, what the team knew –- that we had just pulled off one of the most important trades in Philadelphia 76ers franchise history. The enthusiasm that was shown that day wasn’t just shown at the National Constitution Center. It was shown in all the press commentary about what kind of a season the Sixers were expected to have. But he hasn’t played a minute. There’s nothing wrong with the press conference. The problem is with his knees.”

Aron and the Sixers have gotten a lot of feedback about those and other problems this year via social media. At times, Aron has, strangely, appeared to court criticism on Twitter. Has his handling of the team from a PR perspective damaged the Sixers’ image?

“We promised the fans on the day we bought the team that we would be communicating with our fans, engaging with our fans, listening to our fans,” Aron said. “We will do that in good times. We will do that in bad times. Will fans be happier when we’re 35-23 than when we’re 23-35? Of course they will.

“Some of the criticisms that I hear are very well-founded, actually. There is a lot of great insight in our fan base. They spend a lot of man hours. I used to describe our fans as hundreds of thousands, if not millions of management consultants, all willing to share their advice with me, free, as to what we should do better and differently. Now, some of the commentary is not as good as others, but what our fans want is a winning team.”

Sixers CEO Adam Aron also had this to say about Andrew Bynum's latest setback.

Sixers acquire, merge two leading eSport companies

Sixers acquire, merge two leading eSport companies

The Sixers on Monday acquired controlling stakes in Team Dignitas and Team Apex, two eSport companies.

The companies will be combining under the Team Dignitas banner. The Sixers become the first North American sports franchise to acquire an eSports team, and intend to manage the day-to-day operations of Team Dignitas.

"There is a tremendous opportunity to leverage the infrastructure, resources and experience of the Sixers organization to support these exciting teams as they continue to compete at the highest levels across multiple games," Sixers managing general partner Josh Harris said in a statement. "We see our entrance into eSports as a natural extension of our expanding interests in traditional sports and entertainment and are confident that our involvement will accelerate the already rapid pace of growth in eSports as a whole.”

Team Dignitas and Team Apex have created games such as League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm and Smite.

5 lingering questions as Sixers training camp begins

5 lingering questions as Sixers training camp begins

Sixers training camp begins on Tuesday and there are plenty of questions as they enter a new chapter following a 10-win season and three tumultuous years of losing.

Here are five things to keep an eye on during camp as the Sixers prepare for the 2016-17 season.

How much will Joel Embiid play?
Embiid will begin the season under restrictions. What those parameters are remain to be determined. The Sixers will continue to proceed with caution for Embiid's NBA debut after two foot surgeries in as many years. It is unlikely he will play in back-to-backs to begin the season, and minutes will be allocated as the team assesses him during camp. The restrictions will create playing opportunities for other bigs in the meantime.

Who will start?
The Sixers have to set a starting five within an unbalanced roster. The team is loaded in the frontcourt and there are only so many positions to go around. Brett Brown said Jerryd Bayless would be the starting point guard if the season began today, and Gerald Henderson appears to be the lock at two-guard. Ben Simmons is the only certainty in the frontcourt, filling the four-spot. The Sixers will have to select a small forward and a center from the plethora of bigs. Expect the starting five to change throughout the season, especially as Embiid gets more games under his belt.

How will the team be different?
The improvement in the wins and losses column is a given. Now, the team is implementing changes off the court intended to have significant effects this season. They expect the new 125,000-square-foot training complex to provide a one-stop shop for all the players' daily needs. The facility was designed so players and staff could spend most of their time there and foster relationships with one another, focus on basketball and create an environment in which they know they can improve. There is also an emphasis on what Brown described as career-best fitness. The team is looking to play uptempo, and players will be pushed to amp up their health, strength and conditioning to compete within that system.

What will Simmons' role be?
Simmons has the unique versatility to be a point-forward. At 6-foot-10, he has the size of a frontcourt player as well as the ball handling skills and court vision of a point guard. There will be times when Simmons is tasked with running the floor. However, Brown has said point guard is the most challenging position and he does not want to throw Simmons into that right away. The Sixers bolstered their depth by adding Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez. Simmons will manage the floor at times, but it won't be his main responsibility.

How will the Noel situation play out?
There are too many bigs. That was the case last season with Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor and the issue still remains, only now Simmons, Embiid and Dario Saric are also in the mix. Noel expressed his uneasiness of the situation to the Philadelphia Inquirer (see story). There is a lingering logjam that has to be sorted out with a trade this season. Who is moved remains to be seen.

For more hot topics, check out the CSNPhilly.com Give and Go series.