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.

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

NEW ORLEANS -- The weeks and months have quickly piled up. Nerlens Noel has not played an NBA regular-season game since last season ended for the Sixers on April 13. Nearly eight months later, Noel is nearing the return he has been eyeing for quite some time now. 

“It’s always an excitement to be able to play basketball after this amount of time, including the summer, not being able to play organized basketball at a competitive level,” Noel said Thursday. “I’ve been really looking forward to this. I think I’ve gained some momentum coming back from this minor surgery, and I think I’m in a really good place and I’m feeling good with my body. Everything is on point.”

Noel has been sidelined since undergoing elective left knee surgery in October to address an inflamed plica. He traveled to New Orleans on Wednesday to join the Sixers ahead of their 99-88 win over the Pelicans (see game recap). Noel continued his rehab Thursday while the team prepped for the game. 

“I’ve been able do five-on-five, full contact,” Noel said. “I’ve tried to maximize my opportunities of that with the team being gone on the road. I came down here and went through most of shootaround and it went well. Now these next couple of days, [I will be] going through practice, still working on my wind. I do like where I’m at now.”

The Sixers’ next game is Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Brett Brown had given Noel’s availability for that game a “maybe” (see story)

“I’m not sure,” Noel said of playing Sunday. “I’m ready to go with these next couple of days and see how my wind feels and how my body feels, which I have been feeling good. So it’s a possibility.”

When Noel does return, there is a scenario in which he could be paired with center Joel Embiid. Last year, the Sixers struggled finding the best way to utilize Noel and Jahlil Okafor, also a center, at the same time playing the four and five positions. As Okafor has said of playing with Embiid, Noel also believes his off-the-court friendship with the towering rookie would translate onto the court. 

“I think it would be something that’s experimented,” Noel said. “It’d definitely be interesting.”

Noel candidly expressed his opinion of the Sixers’ logjammed frontcourt at the start of the season. Since speaking to the media after his surgery, Noel has mentioned he is in a good mental place (see story). For him, that means being out on the court again. 

“I love myself and I love the game of basketball,” Noel said. “When I step out here to come and play, it just brings a lot of enjoyment and excitement to me. Regardless of what the details of it are, I just love the game and I’m happy to just be playing.”

Best of NBA: Bulls hand Spurs first road loss of season

Best of NBA: Bulls hand Spurs first road loss of season

CHICAGO -- Dwyane Wade scored 20 points, and the Chicago Bulls handed San Antonio its first road loss after a 13-0 start, hanging on to beat the Spurs 95-91 on Thursday night.

San Antonio fell one win shy of matching the NBA's best road start set by the Golden State Warriors last season. The Spurs cut an 18-point deficit midway through the third quarter to four in the closing minutes, only to come up short.

Kawhi Leonard scored 24 for San Antonio. Patty Mills added 16 points, hitting 4 of 6 3-pointers. Former Bull Pau Gasol had 13 points and 10 rebounds in his first game in Chicago since signing with San Antonio in the summer, but the Spurs lost a road game for the first time since Oklahoma City knocked them out in the Western Conference semifinals last season.

Jimmy Butler scored all of his 13 points for Chicago in the second half. Rajon Rondo added 12 points, nine assists and 10 rebounds, and Chicago picked up the win after dropping three in a row and six of nine.

The Spurs hadn't dropped a regular-season road game since Denver beat them on April 8 (see full recap).

Scoreboard malfunction, quiet crowd don’t stop Wizards’ rally
WASHINGTON -- Overcoming a sluggish start in front of a sparse, silent crowd and with a malfunctioning scoreboard, the Washington Wizards came back to beat the Nuggets 92-85 on Thursday night, thanks mainly to Bradley Beal's 26 points and Denver's season-high 29 turnovers.

John Wall scored only 15 points one game after a career-best 52, but nine came in the fourth quarter for Washington, which trailed by as many as 14 in the first half.

With starting point guard Emmanuel Mudiay inactive because of what the team said was a sprained right ankle, the Nuggets went 5 1/2 minutes without a point in the fourth quarter.

In that final period, they had 10 of their turnovers and shot 1 for 14 on 3-pointers -- including 0 for 4 in one last-minute possession (see full recap).

Gasol, clutch free throws lift Grizzlies over
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Marc Gasol scored 36 points and Toney Douglas made two free throws with less than a second left to give the Memphis Grizzlies an 88-86 comeback victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night.

Douglas finished with 11 points, scoring the game's final six points to seal Memphis' fifth straight victory.

Gasol was 13 of 24 from the field, including 4 of 6 from outside the arc. But Douglas, signed by Memphis this week because of injuries, took over down the stretch. The guard scored on a 19-footer with 34 seconds left, then converted two pairs of free throws in the last 20 seconds.

CJ McCollum led the Trail Blazers with 24 points, and Damian Lillard had 19 on 6-of-18 shooting. Evan Turner had 15 points and 10 rebounds (see full recap).