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February 13, 2017

Court jesters: Sixers just can’t stop playing the fool

Just when it seemed the Sixers could not possibly look more devious and inept, they found a way to look more devious and inept. Their latest exploits involving potential franchise player Joel Embiid are the work of a dishonest and clueless organization.

Let’s start with the sudden emergence of GM Bryan Colangelo over the past few days, most notably last weekend when he revealed – after the news had already broken on – that Embiid had indeed been dealing with more than a bone bruise in his left knee. The fragile center also has a slight meniscus tear.

MULLIN: Sixers' Colangelo failing to prove he's any better than Hinkie

"It was not thought to be the source of the pain, inflammation, or symptoms," Colangelo said. "He's being treated for a bone bruise. Once he's asymptomatic, he'll be back on the court."

If you believe Colangelo this time, congratulations. You have just been elected the new village idiot.

On those rare occasions when he does speak, the GM hides behind a wall of fancy words designed to promote deception. For three weeks – including two radio appearances last week – he had made no mention of the tear. Over and over, he insisted that Embiid was dealing only with a bone bruise.

Then Bodner got the real story, and now Colangelo is trying to tell people the tear is so minor, so unimportant, that it didn’t require even a mention. Yeah, sure. A tear in the body part of a hugely important player is no big deal. Nothing to see here. Move on.

Of course, Colangelo got this medical information from a staff headed by Australian zoologist David Martin, one of Sam Hinkie’s many outside-the-box ideas during his aborted GM rein. In a city known for its extraordinary orthopedic specialists, Hinkie thought it was smart to find one halfway around the world.

What does Martin think about Embiid’s current condition? Good luck trying to figure that one out. Martin has never been permitted to speak publicly, even though he’s been with the team for almost two years and is overseeing the treatment of the most important Sixer since Allen Iverson.

The biggest issue here is not the unreported meniscus tear, nor the deceit displayed by the organization. The greatest concern should be that Embiid has added another problem to his growing litany of medical issues. After back trouble in college, two foot operations and the current knee problems, it’s fair to wonder now whether Embiid is fragile.

Based on his fun-loving spirit, these issues clearly are not discouraging his zest for life. The young player known for chugging Shirley Temples and trying under-the-leg dunks while rehabbing from foot surgery added a new twist to his dubious exploits on Friday night when he danced onstage at a Meek Mill concert.

In the same venue – the Wells Fargo Center – where customers have been paying not to see him play for the past three weeks, Embiid took off his shirt and pranced around the stage to Future’s “Wicked,” a three-minute song. No word yet on whether Embiid stopped dancing after that because he’s on a minutes restriction.

The decision to jump on the stage and bust some moves was dumb for two reasons. First, imagine if he had hurt his knee there; just how insane would the fan reaction be for that? And second, the perception that Embiid is OK to dance but not to play is impossible to sell to a loyal fan base. It just looks bad.

Colangelo acknowledged that he was “a little bit” disappointed in Embiid for getting swept up in the moment at the concert. Like the meniscus tear, though, he said it’s no big deal. Everything will be just fine.

In the world of the devious and the inept, everything is always just fine.


The outrage in New York over Knicks owner James Dolan’s disgusting behavior last week should serve as a harsh reminder to the guardians of every sports franchise in America. There is no such thing as an owner in sports. The only people who actually own a professional team are the fans.

You see, the name on the uniform is not the Dolan Knicks or the Harris Sixers. It’s the name of the city, which is populated by thousands and thousands of fans, not the tiny minority of rich guys who won the temporary privilege of overseeing a sports franchise.

What made the Dolan fiasco last week so jarring was the vile way the incident unfolded. Charles Oakley, a folk hero in New York, allegedly heckled Dolan from a seat four rows behind the pompous billionaire. Oakley claims he did nothing of the kind, that Dolan banished him because of a long-simmering feud.

So far, although there were hundreds of witnesses within earshot, not one tape has emerged supporting Dolan’s allegation. The statements of Madison Square Garden employees detailing Oakley’s supposed “highly inappropriate and extremely abusive behavior” are worthless. They work for a bully. What are they supposed to say?

Because this is James Dolan, a perennial failure at running two prized franchises (including the Rangers) in the media capital of the world and a lout with a congenital sense of entitlement, it wasn’t enough to demean Oakley. No, the owner also suggested the former player was struggling with an alcohol problem and anger-management issues.

Philadelphia and New York have one thing in common as sports cities. We suffer no fools. And James Dolan is the ultimate dunce, the son of a cable-TV magnate whose primary contribution to sports has been to defile it. Look up James Dolan on Wikipedia. The biggest section, by far, is “Controversies.”

To their great credit, New York fans have responded to Dolan’s actions with an avalanche of venom. On Thursday night, Rangers fans began chants of their own to support Oakley. When the arena security force descended upon them with threats of ejection, the entire crowd took up the cause.

You can’t throw everybody out, can you?

Dolan’s enforcers backed off that night, leaving it to their boss to ban Oakley for life from MSG the next day and to fire his director of security. These thuggish acts – remember, the owner still has provided no proof of Oakley’s “extremely abusive behavior” – are typical of Dolan. However, the response of the fans was not.

They let it be known again on Friday night, with more angry chants, that Dolan’s attitude will not be tolerated. They served notice that the loudest voice in every arena is theirs. That’s why what will happen next should serve as a lesson to Joshua Harris, the caretaker of the Sixers, and all of our other sports owners.

Oakley is planning a news conference this week to announce a defamation lawsuit against Dolan, an act that will no doubt activate the smug owner to return fire with all of the force of his father’s money. In his world, the richest guy always wins.

Not this time, though. In sports, if you disrespect the fans enough, if you act like you are more than the overseer of a public trust, the fans will do to you what you so often do to your own employees. They will bully you. They will overpower you. They will fire you.

Ultimately, the fans will do something in New York that James Dolan has never done. They will win.

And finally ...

     • DeSean Jackson’s latest public outburst about his days in Philadelphia should seal his fate as a free-agent target of the Eagles. Basically, he said his former team ruined his reputation, portraying him as a troublemaker. This just in: He is a troublemaker. And 31-year-old troublemakers on the downslope of a career are the worst possible investment for a young team like the Eagles.

     • Kudos to the Flyers’ season-ticketholders who turned out at a private town-hall meeting last week and made things uncomfortable for the top executives in the front office and coach Dave Hakstol. At one point, Hakstol reportedly became flustered when the fans challenged his decision to bench Shayne Gostisbehere. It’s about time someone held the Flyers accountable for their recent failings.

     • If you’re looking to blame someone for the Flyers’ 8-21 record since the 10-game winning streak, a good place to start is Claude Giroux, who is having a very disappointing season. Not only is he tied for second-worst on the team in plus-minus with -17, but he also has scored a grand total of two goals in the last two months. Teams look to their captain in times of desperation. Giroux has not been there for them.

     • Despite some absurdly positive recent forecasts, the Phillies – who open spring training in Clearwater today – are looking at another boring season at Citizens Bank Park. The Phils do have six young starting pitchers, but they are much too unproven to portend a good year. And the lineup has a couple of veteran bats now, but neither Howie Kendrick nor Michael Saunders is going to move the needle back into positive territory. Figure on a record of 75-87, at best, this season.

     • The suspense surrounding Tom Brady’s Super Bowl jersey is killing me. Will the NFL’s greatest player – with a supermodel wife, perfect children, millions and millions of dollars pouring in every year, and direct access to the Fountain of Youth – get back the jersey he most covets? If he doesn’t get it back, there is no justice in this cruel world.