February 20, 2017
As the Sixers bury themselves deeper and deeper in their own avalanche of misinformation, one man has remained above the muck. His name is Joshua Harris, the multi-billionaire who owns the team.
Now granted, GM Bryan Colangelo has emerged as the biggest villain, for obvious reasons. He has no respect for the truth, nor for the many Philadelphia fans who demand it. And coach Brett Brown has faced the most scrutiny, trying nobly to serve an honest fan base and a devious front office at the same time.
But the real brains (or lack thereof) in this operation has to be Harris, a hedge-fund wizard who is a lot better at maneuvering his billions than he is at managing the truth. In fact, it’s safe to say Harris has had exactly as much interest in being honest as he has had in winning basketball games over the last four years.
For the record – and quite a record it is – the Sixers are 137-313 in the five-plus seasons since Harris bought the team for $280 million. That .304 winning percentage is the worst in team history for a Sixers owner, by far. The bottom line, however, looks just fine, thank you. The team is currently valued by Forbes Magazine at $800 million.
Unfortunately for Harris, fans are far more interested in wins and losses than the owner’s bank account, and he has been overseeing an operation riddled with incompetence and dishonor. Harris will never escape the image of his helicopter landing in the middle of a soccer field and shutting down a youth league game 15 months ago.
The Sixers owner became a pariah in the eyes of the parents that night in North Jersey, but somehow he has escaped the same venom in Philadelphia. Here, he has insulated himself from blame with buffoonish CEOs like Adam Aron and Scott O’Neil and with awkward GMs like Sam Hinkie and Bryan Colangelo.
Over the past 12 days, Colangelo has absorbed the brunt of the fan anger by omitting Joel Embiid’s partially torn meniscus from his injury reports, and then by saying that Ben Simmons’ most recent foot-scan was “clean,” when it wasn’t. Fans here really hate with a GM lies to them. When it happens twice in the same month, look out.
What adds intrigue to the situation is Colangelo’s reputation prior to moving here 11 months ago. Those who were privy to his style when he served for seven years as the GM of the Toronto Raptors say he was known there for his accessibility and his honesty. So why has he changed his approach so dramatically here?
Even now, almost a year after Hinkie’s departure, the answer to that question leads right back to him. Sam Hinkie was never considered a liar when he was a GM here primarily because he spoke so obscurely, so indecipherably, that most people had no idea what he was saying.
But something he did in 2014 cost the Sixers a huge $3 million NBA fine, a fact that has been lost in all of the chaos since then. After trading Jrue Holiday to New Orleans, his new team diagnosed a stress fracture in his lower right leg that the Sixers did not disclose before the deal.
In other words, the dishonesty pre-dates Colangelo by at least two years. Clearly, the Sixers didn’t learn from that punishment – a pittance to Harris, who is worth a reported $2.5 billion – because they have led the league in health misinformation since then.
Is it just a coincidence that both GMs turned into fabricators when they worked for Joshua Harris, or is the fish actually rotting at the head? Did successful CEOs like Aron and O’Neil suddenly become truth-bending sideshow clowns when they arrived here or were they just following orders?
Obviously, the real problem here is the owner, Joshua Harris. In his world of high finance, twisting the truth is second nature.
You might even say it’s money in the bank.
Before we proceed any further, it’s important that you know something about the writer of this column.
I am a stupid, stupid man.
I earned each of those stupids when I walked into a polling booth and pulled the lever next to Chris Christie’s name. That’s right. I was so swept up in the man’s bravado, his willingness to stand up to injustice, that I voted for him twice in the last two New Jersey gubernatorial races.
You can imagine my horror, then, after Christie’s latest attack against Philadelphia sports fans. This time, instead of ripping Eagles enthusiasts – the governor is a devout Cowboys fan – he aimed his bluster during an SNY-TV appearance at the Phillies and their supporters.
“The Phillies suck,” Christie said. “Let’s just start with that. They’re from Philadelphia, they’re an awful team, they’re an angry, bitter fan base. And it’s not safe for civilized people to go to Citizens Bank Park if you want to root for the other team.”
What triggered Christie’s latest outburst was an admittedly absurd mural in the Phillies’ newly named Spring Training home, Spectrum Field, that featured Tug McGraw in a Phils’ uniform next to large letters spelling out "Ya Gotta Believe" – his famous quote from his Mets days.
By now, it’s obvious Christie is trying out for his next job, a sports-talk show host, and I addressed that bleak prospect here last week. Somehow, he thinks all he needs to do is get his name in the news, and he’ll be the next Howard Stern. It’s not going to happen, for a very simple reason. Chris Christie is not smart enough.
This comes from someone who has been a talk-show host for three decades, and someone who is stupid enough to vote for Christie twice.
If there’s one thing I know, it’s stupid. And that’s Chris Christie.
As reported here first – a dozen times, at least – the Flyers are a disjointed mess of a team with very little offense, mediocre goaltending and bad coaching. With the trade deadline looming on March 1, GM Ron Hextall needs to face reality and blow up his dysfunctional roster.
A good place to start is to offer the services of captain Claude Giroux, who is -22 in the past 28 games and is now clearly over the hill. The problem is, his insane contract calls for him to make $37 million over the next five years. Hey, if the Flyers found a taker for a washed-up Mike Richards in 2011, it’s worth a try, isn’t it?
Only in the past few weeks, as the Flyers floundered badly, have fans truly turned their attention toward Giroux’s declining play. The fact that he is also a dud as a leader isn’t helping his popularity. He needs to go, for whatever Hextall can get.
Except for Wayne Simmonds and some of the kids, every other player should carry a For Sale sign around his neck. Simmonds should be the new captain once Giroux leaves – I’d give him the title now, actually – and the emphasis for the rest of this lost season should be on finding out who can help in the future, and who can’t.
As for the coach, Hextall shouldn’t be so fast in committing long-term to Dave Hakstol, whose work running the team has been abysmal this season. In itself, the drop in production of Shayne Gostisbehere is a fireable offense. The Ghost’s three-assist night in Vancouver on Sunday further emphasized how dumb it was for Hakstol to bench the kid so often in the past six weeks.
Hextall already blew one big chance when he didn’t move quickly to seek the services of Claude Julien, who was unemployed exactly seven days after Boston fired him before Montreal swooped in with an offer. Does Hextall really believe Hakstol is a better option behind the bench than a career winner with a Stanley Cup on his resume?
Everybody loves to preach patience on the Flyers, but this is a time for action. The past two months after that implausible 10-game winning streak have established that it’s time for some dramatic changes, not another season of waiting.
And finally ...
• Call me a skeptic if you must, but that report that the Sixers almost acquired DeMarcus Cousins from Sacramento sounds like hogwash. The Kings got Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway and future No. 1 and 2 picks from New Orleans. Without Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons – both untouchables – what could GM Bryan Colangelo have offered to top that deal? Jahlil Okafor and what? Sounds like more misinformation leaked by the Sixers.
• As the Eagles ponder the fate of some of their high-priced veterans, what could possibly be holding up the inevitable decision to cut Connor Barwin? The linebacker/defensive end contributed next to nothing in the pass rush last season and would free up $7.75 million under the salary cap. No one is going to take on that financial burden, so a trade makes no sense. Just do it, Howie Roseman. It’s time.
• The word out of Buffalo last week was that the new coaching staff is pondering the release of former Eagle running back LeSean McCoy because – ready for this? – their offense requires a one-cut runner, not a dancer like McCoy. If the Bills make the move, the Eagles will have a chance to bring back DeSean Jackson (a free agent) and McCoy. Here are my votes: No and no.
• Last week, Steve Young tried to recant his comments on Bloomberg.com earlier this month confessing his lack of interest in the NFL and his lack of preparation for his appearances on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. Sorry, Steve, but when you say you don’t give a damn about your viewers, it’s kind of hard to take that back. If Young is still employed on TV next season, shame on ESPN.
• GM Matt Klentak said he thinks the Phillies will be better this season, and manager Pete Mackanin said the look in his players’ eyes proves they indeed will be better. OK, you’re all caught up on the scintillating first week of Spring Training for our baseball team.