Did the Philadelphia 76ers ownership just pull off the greatest tanking scheme in NBA history? Will their current horrible reputation be wiped away into them being regarded in the highest light for the Andrew Bynum blockbuster trade?
If I were to tell you that they’ve been pulling the media and fans’ legs all along for the good of the organization, would you believe me?
Putting your emotions aside (and believe me I’m right there with you) the answer to all three of these questions could conceivably be yes. The story of marketing ploys and genius cover ups begins after the jump…
In 2005, a documentary was released by director Alex Gibney called, “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.”
Here’s the trailer for anyone who hasn’t seen it (I highly recommend it):
The documentary studies the company Enron, who secretly and ingeniously pulled off one of the biggest business scandals in American History. The gist of the company Enron is that it was a company based on mark-to-model accounting. This means they’d report potential profits into their earnings every year without actually following up on the projects which the earnings were based on.
On the surface the company looked like a highly stable, successful and growing corporation, but underneath they had nothing to show for themselves but lies and deception. Most of the projects they signed off on fizzled, but yet their stock price kept rising with each passing year. In 16 years the company went from $10 billion in assets to $65 billion in assets, but it only took 24 days to go bankrupt.
How does this relate to the Sixers do you ask? While all of the fans have been too busy focusing on what’s being said to them on the surface, what’s been going on underneath the red, white and blue could be one of the most ingenious tanking schemes the NBA has ever seen.
It all started when the team signed Nick Young to a one-year, $6 million dollar deal, amnestied the rest of Elton Brand’s $18.2 million in salary and let Lou Williams walk in July.
The ownership then handed out a slew of one-year deals to Dorell Wright, Royal Ivey, Damien Wilkins, Charles Jenkins and Jeremy Pargo.
When they traded away Andre Iguodala and his $16 million in salary, Nikola Vucevic, Moe Harkless and a conditional 2015 first-round pick for Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson, they will still come out the clear winners in a trade that many seem to think they have severely lost at this point in time.
Regardless of what the Sixers and media have told you, the ownership knew they had received damaged goods in Bynum when they made the trade back in August, but were hopeful he’d be able to take the court this season. The ownership “claims” that Bynum’s knees had checked out with four different doctors, but in reality they knew there was about a 10 percent chance for his return this season and didn’t want to shock/scare the fans into thinking that the trade they made was unwarranted and stupid.
They got the fans even more excited by holding a public press conference for Bynum at Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center where Bynum explained he wanted to stay in Philadelphia for the long-term. Everyone was on board and excited, including analysts who were picking the 76ers to be a top five team in the East and the ownership was on top of the world.
They even fooled Jrue Holiday, who could be receiving close to $16 million a year with another team had he not signed a four-year, $41 million contract extension with the Sixers after the first game of the season in November. Holiday will make close to $11 million a year over the next four seasons.
The thing about lying however, is that eventually it will catch up to you and severely hurt your reputation. When the ownership realistically knew that Bynum had a slim chance to play this season in October, they continued to string along the fans with the idea he would.
Adam Aron even explained that they had known of a bone bruise in Bynum’s knee since September in a recent interview with WIP. Apparently on separate unspecified dates, Bynum sustained injuries to his knees and received treatment for it. In an individual workout in Los Angeles, a month before joining the Sixers for preseason camp, Bynum hurt his right knee on an up-and-under move.
It was after that he traveled to Germany, where he received a non-invasive plasma-enrichment procedure called Orthokine.
In Jason Wolf of delawareonline.com’s (now famous on this site) November article, he explained:
“One internationally respected orthopedic surgeon, who is not involved with Bynum’s treatment and has not seen his MRIs, told The News Journal that all of the information that has been released by the player and the Sixers points to a likely diagnosis of osteochondritis dessicans lesions. The surgeon said that if this is the case, there’s a small chance that Bynum’s knees could heal sufficiently on their own in time for him to return for the playoffs this season, but called that scenario “wishing on a star. While they can heal non-operatively, they can take a long time [four to six months] to heal, and in adult athletes, frequently they will require surgical intervention at some point if there isn’t adequate healing within the first several months of treatment,” the surgeon said.
So the Sixers waited exactly six months for Bynum, while continuously telling fans and the media that Bynum was having “setbacks” rather than just telling the truth. Bynum (as expected) had arthoscopic or “very minor” surgery on both of his knees earlier this month and will now be fully healthy to start the 2013-14 season.
Was this all part of the ownership’s grand scheme? Did they want to scare other teams away from going after Andrew Bynum this offseason by using his return as a mirage? Was their goal to get the best contract possible out of Bynum that they could while also setting up the franchise for an extremely bright future?
The NBA salary cap, including the luxury tax, is roughly $70.3 million. According to hoopshype.com’s numbers, the 76ers owe just $46 million in salaries in 2013-14 and roughly $27 million in 2014-15.
If they do sign Bynum the deal is potentially a five-year, $50 million contract with plenty of built in incentives. This gives the 76ers plenty of cap room moving forward. Shouldn’t fans be happy that it’s not going to be the five-year, $80 million deal which was expected when he was traded to the team back in August?
The 76ers have in a sense gotten Holiday and Bynum (potentially) on super valuable deals and will also save close to $10 million a year that they can spend elsewhere.
Not only that, but by the ownership staying put this season and not going after players like Josh Smith in a trade at the deadline and deciding to “tank”, the Sixers can get between the 6th to 8th pick (if they stop winning) in the upcoming draft and spend it on a potentially elite NBA guard.
NBAdraft.net has the Sixers selecting with the 11th pick in the draft currently, but that number should slide to at least the 8th pick by seasons end. They have guard’s Victor Oladipo of Indiana and Shabazz Muhammad of UCLA slotted as the 8th and 9th picks currently. It’s not unrealistic to believe that the 76ers won’t have a shot at either of these players who have the potential to be elite NBA shooting guards.
People can say to the contrary that the 76ers got rid of Iguodala, Vucevic and Harkless for nothing, but those people also fail to remember that the 76ers wanted to draft Arnett Moultrie all along in this years draft, and they nabbed him from the Heat basically for free now that the 76ers are a lottery-bound team. Make no mistake, the ownership knew that the only way to get Andrew Bynum was to include Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless in the trade. If Bynum averages 18 points and 11 rebounds next season for the 7-6 will you really be crying to have Nikola Vucevic back?
Think about this starting lineup for a second…Jrue Holiday, Victor Oladipo, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young and Andrew Bynum.
Think about this bench for a second…Spencer Hawes, Jason Richardson, Lavoy Allen, Damien Wilkins, Kwame Brown and potentially Dorell Wright.
Is there any reason to believe that this team wouldn’t win 50+ games next season? The 76ers also have the opportunity to add a player like O.J. Mayo or Tony Allen as well in the offseason with the extra cap room they’ve provided for themselves and in the 2014 offseason the opportunities are endless in terms of who they could sign.
Their image may be as scarred as the corporate executives once were for the corporation Enron, but in a seasons time don’t be afraid to hold back your applause for the 76ers ownership. Get ready to forgive and forget, because the 76ers championship runs are just around the corner and the slight pain you’ve had to suffer this season will pay off 10-fold when all is said and done.
Buckle yourselves in, because the freight train is coming…