If there was ever any doubt about 76ers owner Josh Harris’ commitment to keeping the 76ers in Philadelphia, he attempted to put that to rest on Thursday.
Harris’ ownership group has finalized a deal to purchase the New Jersey Devils and the Prudential Center in Newark (pending NHL approval). The unholy alliance was rumored for about a week or so, prompting all sorts of speculation from, “This is going to upset a lot of Philly fans,” to “He’s trying to take the Sixers to Jersey!”
General manager Sam Hinkie was adamant during new head coach Brett Borwn’s introductory press conference that Harris had no intention of moving the franchise , which backs up some of the whispers from behind the curtain. Harris finally had a chance to speak for himself once the deal was completed though, and he reiterated his commitment to keeping the 76ers in Philadelphia.
Josh Harris after buying Devils, tells reporters, "The Sixers are staying in Philly."
— John Clark NBC10 (@johnclarknbc10) August 15, 2013
I suppose if you’re a conspiracy theorist, you’ll want to note the date when Harris was caught lying through his teeth. However, there really isn't any evidence to support a move could be in the works.
The main reason there is a belief he could take the team to New Jersey is the building. The Sixers lease the Wells Fargo Center, which cuts into profits, whereas Harris now runs an arena. That doesn’t mean the move makes business sense though. While it may not always show, the Sixers have a loyal fan base, one I’m sure is just waiting to pack the house again once the club’s fortunes finally turn around. What, are the people of North Jersey clamoring for NBA basketball?
More to the point, a move probably is not possible, certainly not right now, very possibly never. The Sixers are said to be locked into a lease with the WFC that goes for upwards of 20 years, so that’s one hoop to jump through. Plus I seriously doubt the Association would even want another team in that region, especially after the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets had their say.
Short version, you can probably sleep easy knowing the Sixers aren’t going anywhere – not in the standings, not to another city.
Of course, there’s still the whole Philly vs. New Jersey dynamic to this story. The Flyers and Devils are bitter rivals, which I guess means Harris might have crossed some imaginary line here. We wonder, is anybody truly upset over this? It might be a bit different if the Sixers had an intense rivalry with a team from Northern Jersey, but since they don’t, I’m not sure whose feelings are being hurt here.
Regardless, the deal is done, Harris has crushed any and all speculation for the time being, so we should be able to put this story to bed once and for all – that is until the Devils hoist their next Stanley Cup.
On second thought, that might be a little irritating to watch.