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.

The case for Kansas' Josh Jackson to the Sixers at No. 3

The case for Kansas' Josh Jackson to the Sixers at No. 3

Over the weeks leading up to the 2017 NBA draft, we'll be making cases for the Sixers to draft several prospects. Our series will kick off with options at No. 3 (or trade downs) followed by second-round possibilities. The 2017 NBA draft will take place on June 22 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Josh Jackson

Position: SF
School: Kansas
Height: 6-8
Weight: 203
Wingspan: 6-9¾

Jackson enjoyed an excellent season in his one year with the Jayhawks. Regarded as one of the top high school recruits in the country, Jackson didn't disappoint. The super athletic swingman averaged 16.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and three assists per game.

Jackson is without a doubt the best two-way player in this draft. He can guard positions one through four. He averaged an impressive 2.2 steals and 1.4 blocks per 40 minutes, using his length and athleticism to disrupt passing lanes. He's also strong and physical, with the ability to body up ball handlers and cutters, and redirect them.

He's a bit underrated offensively. He struggled with his shot early on, but improved as the season went on. In his last 17 games, he shot 48 percent from three on over three attempts per game. As his three assists a night indicates, he's a good and willing passer. He's also a better ball handler than he gets credit for, with the ability to get to the rim using his left or his right. Oh, and he can finish.

The case for Jackson
He fits the Sixers as an elite wing defender who plays well off the ball. If his shot continues to improve, he could be a great complement to Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. 

No, he's not an obvious fit, but he's way too talented at a position they really don't have. And talented wings aren't easy to find. Robert Covington has been a find for the Sixers and should definitely be given a contract extension, but Jackson simply brings more to the table on both ends of the court. The shot is a concern, but we've seen almost every player improve their shot with head coach Brett Brown and the Sixers' staff.

The case against Jackson
You can't just overlook the fact that he shot an abysmal 57 percent from the free throw line. That simply won't get it done. Free throw shooting can also be an indicator of whether a player can improve his stroke from the field. If the Sixers take Jackson, you have to hope that 57 percent is an aberration. 

Jackson also had some trouble off the court. There were two separate incidents. Both cases were recently resolved, but they both show a lack of maturity and, quite frankly, stupidity. 

One case involved Jackson backing up his car into another and then leaving the scene. He was given probation and forced to pay a $250 fine. In a more troubling incident, Jackson kicked the driver's side door and kicked out a tail light of a member of Kansas' women's basketball team after an argument. He reached a diversion agreement that requires him to attend anger management classes, write a letter of apology and refrain from using alcohol or recreational drugs for a year.

The Sixers will have to vet Jackson long and hard to determine if these incidents were out of a character or part of a troubling pattern.

Analysis
Washington guard Markelle Fultz is the No. 1 player on the board and will likely be picked by the Celtics. The consensus seems to be that the Lakers will take UCLA guard Lonzo Ball. With those two players off the board, Jackson is the clear-cut pick at No. 3.

At worst, you have an elite wing defender that can help slow down the likes of LeBron James, Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Giannis Antetokounmpo in the Eastern Conference. He's also going to be a nightmare in the open court running the floor with Simmons. I'd bank on him having at least a modest improvement on his shot.

The off-the-court stuff is definitely a concern, but it's possible they're just dumb decisions by a young kid. He's so talented, you better be certain that there's an issue if you decide to pass on him at No. 3. If he stays out of trouble, he's absolutely worthy of the No. 3 pick.

NBA Playoffs: LeBron James makes history as Cavaliers roll into Finals

NBA Playoffs: LeBron James makes history as Cavaliers roll into Finals

BOX SCORE

BOSTON -- The NBA Finals has its first "three-match," courtesy of a King who passed His Airness.

LeBron James scored 35 points and passed Michael Jordan to become the NBA's all-time playoff scoring leader as the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Boston Celtics 135-102 on Thursday night to claim their third straight Eastern Conference title and another trip to the NBA Finals to meet the Golden State Warriors.

Kyrie Irving added 24 points and Kevin Love finished with 15 for the Cavs, who never trailed and led by as many as 39 points in one of their most dominating wins of the series. The Cavs set an NBA record by winning their 13th consecutive series closeout opportunity.

Cleveland's 4-1 series win gives it a 12-1 record this postseason and sets up a third consecutive matchup with Western Conference champion Golden State, the team it beat in the Finals last season to claim the franchise's first championship.

"I wear the number because of Mike," James said. "I think I fell in love with the game because of Mike, just because of what he was able to accomplish. When you're watching Michael Jordan it's almost like a god. So I didn't think I could be Mike."

It will mark the seventh straight trip to the Finals for James, who hit a 3-pointer late in in the third quarter to nudge past Jordan on the playoff scoring list. He quickly flashed one finger as he backpedaled down the court.

In the postgame trophy presentation backstage, James spent most of it lingering in the background as his teammates celebrated.

But there's no denying that his accolades are putting him in the orbit of Jordan, his boyhood idol.

"The biggest thing is I did it just being me, I don't have to score the ball to make an impact on the basketball game," James said. "That was my mindset. If I'm not scoring the ball, how can I still make an impact on the game?"

As much as this series was about James, Irving helped turn the tide of the series with a 42-point effort in Game 4. But he said both he and his teammates continue to be inspired by their leader.

"He's been the driving force, this entire playoff run, and all of us have just helped us along the way," Irving said.

Coach Tyronn Lue said they've gotten tighter this season.

"This team is a crazy team. They just stayed resilient all year, got to the playoffs, and we really stepped our game up," he said. "Now we can start focusing on Golden State to get ready. As of tonight, I'll get started."

Avery Bradley led Boston with 23 points.

The Cavaliers basically conceded the East's top seed to the Celtics at the end of the regular season by opting to rest their starters in advance of the playoffs. But they displayed their superiority over the final two games to wrap up the series.

After allowing the Celtics to seize the early momentum in Game 4, the Cavs barely gave them the chance in Game 5.

Led by its Big Three, Cleveland quickly built a 21-point lead in the first quarter, while getting lots of contributions from their teammates.

Love continued to knock down shots from the outside, Irving sliced his way into the lane to the rim and James got free for several of his one-handed, tomahawk dunks.

It was a very welcomed sight in Irving's case, after he rolled his left ankle in the third quarter of Cleveland's Game 4 win. He showed no signs of lingering issues, though, beating several defenders off the dribble and handing out seven assists.

Meanwhile, J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver helped spread out Boston's defenders by connecting on several wide-open scoring opportunities.

Deron Williams, who had been quiet for most of the series, also got in on the act with a series-best 14 points for Cleveland.

Tip-ins
Cavaliers: James has scored 30 or more points in 11 of Cleveland's 13 games this postseason. ... Improved to 36-5 against Eastern Conference opponents in the playoffs since 2015. ... The 43 points Cleveland scored in the first quarter set a team postseason record for a quarter.

Celtics: Never led at home in the series. ... Finished the playoffs having made at least 10 3-pointers in 16 of their 18 games. ... Held a pregame moment of silence for the victims of the Manchester bombing.

Making progress
The Celtics did their best to keep up, but the consistent outside shooting, bench scoring and defense they relied on to stun Cleveland in Game 3 wasn't there Thursday night.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said though he's disappointed with how the season ended, he's encouraged that no one in Boston's locker room is satisfied just making it to the conference finals.

"I told our guys: `We made a lot of great strides, but this pain is part of the path to what we ultimately want to be,'" he said.

Showing support
Injured Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas was in attendance Thursday night and gathered with his teammates in a huddle before they took the court for pregame warmups.

The two-time All-Star was sidelined in Game 2 after aggravating a hip injury.