Monday, February 27, 2017

76ers -- "Fraud" on the Customer

The 76ers moved their "re-up" and "sign-up" for season tickets to early February, or so it seemed that way.  I recall a calendar entry that appeared to have put this activity in the March-April time frame. 

It was hard to blame them, as the team got hot and Joel Embiid, then a sure-shot candidate for rookie of the year, was playing out of his mind, as were many of his teammates.  They were playing so well, in fact, that the team won more games in January than the defending champion Cavaliers.  They got so hot that in their pursuit to get some help for LeBron James, the Cavs pursued 76ers' starting point guard T.J. McConnell, an undrafted free agent who was putting up a staggeringly good assist-to-turnover ratio.  (The team nixed the Cavs' overtures).

People got excited.  Not only were they "trusting the process," a tribute to deposed GM Sam Hinkie, but they also were "raising the cat," a bow to top pick Ben Simmons, who had yet to play a single minute for the team.  Atop that, Simmons was due back in February and Embiid, despite a tweaked knee, was due back after the All-Star game.  Or so that was the report.

Fast forward to after the All-Star break and the team is once again in a state of semi-limbo.  As it turns out, Simmons' foot has not healed properly (something the team must have known before the push to sign people up for season tickets for next year) and Embiid's knee was healing slowly (which did not stop him from dancing at a Meek Mill concert but apparently might stop him from playing for the rest of the year).  Which means that either the 76ers' are furthering Hinkie's strategy of tanking by putting the breaks on the team so that it has a low enough finish to get the draft pick they want -- since the team isn't going to make the playoffs this year -- or they are just floundering and catching their breath after snookering their very loyal fans into re-upping with the hope that the good feelings would continue after January and mid-February and that they would get to see Embiid and Simmons together on the court for the rest of the year and a taste of things to come.  That was most certainly what they were banking on when they moved up the season-ticket sign-up and renewal date as early as they did.

Except that the hope was a mirage.  They had to have known that Simmons wasn't healing right and also had it in mind that they were not going to rush Embiid and didn't care if they play him again because now the game is to get the best draft pick possible, which runs contrary to winning as many games as possible.  Yes, the guys on the floor have shown something and yes, they care, but the whole situation is suspect.  What did Josh Harris and Bryan Colangelo know -- and when did they know it?

The fan base has been very loyal to this ownership group, in part because they rescued the team from Ed Snider and Comcast.  And, in part, because this ownership group seemingly wants to put a special team on the floor.

But there are only so many times you can fib to the base or rely on their loyalty and hope.  The 76ers have gone to the well one more time with their fans, and the well of good will is getting pretty dry.  For the well to fill up, they will need to draft well and then to field a lineup that can make the playoffs next season. 

Because this particular fib is a pretty bad one. 

They didn't have to sell any more hope to the fans and worse, they didn't need to lie to them.