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-Knicks 5 Things: Sixers hope to remain hot after All-Star break

Sixers-Knicks 5 Things: Sixers hope to remain hot after All-Star break

The Sixers (22-35) finish off a back-to-back set out of the All-Star break when they the New York Knicks (23-35) at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m./CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports app).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup.

1. Starting out strong
So much for having nine days off and players in new roles negatively impacting the team.

The Sixers stormed into the home stretch of the season with a 120-112 win over the Washington Wizards. Seven different players scored in double figures for the Sixers, as they knocked off the Eastern Conference's No. 3 seed.

Perhaps no player had a bigger impact on the game than Richaun Holmes. The backup big man notched the first double-double of his career with 12 points and 10 rebounds. He also added a career-best five blocks.

"I try to approach every game this season the same way, whether everybody was playing or people were hurt," Holmes said. "Prepare like I'm going to play 30 minutes a game. I think having that mindset helped me to stay ready at all times and be aggressive when I had a chance."

2. Young guns
Injuries will prevent another juicy clash between Joel Embiid and Kristaps Porzingis, but there will still be two other young players to keep an eye Saturday night.

Dario Saric and Willy Hernangomez have been two of the most impressive rookies this season, especially since the calendar flipped to February.

Saric has averaged 16.4 points, 7.3 boards and 2.2 assists this month. He's coming off a 20-point, 11-rebound performance against the Wizards for his third straight double-double.

Hernangomez has put up 11.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists a night in February. The center, who was actually drafted 35th overall in 2015 by the Sixers before being traded, recorded 11 points and 10 rebounds in the Knicks' 119-104 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.

Saturday's clash could go a long way toward determining Rookie of the Month honors for the East.

3. A Rose is but a Rose
Derrick Rose will never be considered among the league's top assist men. That's simply not his style of play.

When the oft-injured Rose has his game flowing, it starts with scoring, particularly against the Sixers.

In 18 career matchups with the Sixers, Rose has averaged 20.7 points. He's also put up 6.6 assists and 3.9 rebounds in those contests.

Rose scored 25 points on 11 of 16 shooting in the Knicks' first meeting with the Sixers this season back on Jan. 12.

That typically would have been enough to say he won the point guard battle that night, but T.J. McConnell's buzzer-beating jumper stole the show in the Sixers' 98-97 win.

4. Injuries
Embiid (knee), Tiago Splitter (calf), Ben Simmons (foot) Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are out for the Sixers.

Joakim Noah (hamstring) is a game-time decision. Porzingis (ankle) is out for the Knicks.

5. This and that
• The Sixers' win over the Knicks in their last meeting snapped a five-game skid in the series.

• The Sixers had 28 assists in their win over the Wizards. They are eighth in the NBA with 23.6 assists a night.

• The Knicks are fourth in the NBA in rebounding with 46.0 boards per game.

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

When Ersan Ilyasova was traded to the Hawks on Wednesday, it became Dario Saric's time to shine.

And shine he did in the Sixers' 120-112 win over the Wizards Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center. In the first game coming off the All-Star break, Saric got the starting nod at power forward. He certainly looked the part, posting 20 points (10 of 19 from the field), 11 rebounds and four assists.

Saric, now the only true four on the roster, was proud of his team's performance against one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

"We have a lot of veterans who can share the ball and that's how you're supposed to play," Saric said. "For me, I'm not surprised if we [beat the third-best team] in the East, but I believe these guys can play very good basketball."

Saric was excellent in the starting role, but his exceptional play dates back before the All-Star break. Including Friday, he's averaged 20.5 points, eight rebounds and 2.5 assists over his last six games. The Sixers are 4-2 in that span.

Head coach Brett Brown is seeing what he expected to see from the Croatian rookie.

"He's a professional basketball player," Brown said. "He has been that for a while. His love of the game, his passion for the game is contagious. It's a thing that we loved maybe more than anything about him when we did the deal with Orlando, knowing however many years ago with the trade with Elfrid Payton and Saric. That was a calculated move."

Saric played almost 33 minutes Friday night. So what did Brown do to give Saric a breather? He sent out Robert Covington.

Covington has played the position most of his life but has spent his entire Sixers career on the wing. In a time of need, he stepped up for a team still adjusting to roster changes.

The 6-foot-8 Covington held his own against the likes of Philly native Markieff Morris. It didn't seem to faze his offensive game, either. Covington scored 25 points on 9 of 14 from the field (5 of 9 from three). He also added 11 rebounds and three assists.

Covington has also been a catalyst for the Sixers during their recent success. He's averaging 17.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 steals in his last six. He's also shot a ridiculous 46 percent from three (19 of 41) in that span.

"We can only control what we're able to control on the court," Covington said. "Everything outside of what they do in management doesn't include us. We can only focus on what we can control on the court, and that's what our main focus was on these last few days."

Saric continues to show that he was worth wait while Covington continues to prove that he's a keeper.

They've certainly had different paths. Saric was a lottery pick and regarded as one the top young players in Europe. Covington went undrafted out of Tennessee State and spent the 2013-14 primarily with the Rockets' D-League affiliate.

Bryan Colangelo has identified Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons as the team's "transformational players." That's likely true, but every NBA team needs guys like Saric and Covington to complement their stars.

Covington is impressed with the progress of Saric in his rookie season.

"Dario's a very special player," Covington said. "He's able to do so much on the court. Tonight, you saw every aspect of his game. He'll guard, defending, rebounding and making plays on the offensive game. That's what Dario does. Now that he's going to play more in the starting lineup, it's really going to help him."

Saric may be the frontrunner to take home the Rookie of the Month for February. He's second only to Joel Embiid in double-doubles (seven) and 20-point games (six) among rookies. Whether it's Saric or Embiid, it appears the Rookie of the Year will be a Sixer.

His promotion to the starting lineup and wins against teams like the Wizards should only help Saric's cause.

"Maybe you see [me start consistently], maybe not," Saric said. "The game first time here I try to find myself. I got a couple rebounds, but still, I try to find myself with the new role. I've tried to move around, catch the rhythm of the game, that's the most important thing in basketball."

He appeared to find himself just fine Friday night.