The last time the Philadelphia 76ers went to the NBA Finals they had a dominant big man in the middle. In 2001, the Sixers played the Los Angeles Lakers for the league championship. The center was Dikembe Mutombo at the time. Mutombo, a 7-foot-2, 245-pounder, averaged 10.0 points, 13.5 rebounds and 2.7 blocks a game that season.
He was also the NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Mutombo was a force in the middle. He wasn’t a big time scorer, but a great shotblocker and rebounder. Well, the Sixers acquired all-star center Andrew Bynum from the Los Angeles Lakers in a four team blockbuster trade this summer and Mutombo feels Bynum should be able to do great things for the Sixers.
“I’m so happy with the trade,” said Mutombo, who was recently in town to participate in the Liberty Medal presentation to boxing legend Muhammad Ali at the National Constitution Center. “Bynum is a young man with full talent ahead of him. He’s a great offensive rebounder and shotblocker. I think his offensive skills are much higher than me when I was at his age.
“I think he has a great future. I just pray that he has a healthy season and that he can give the Philly fans something they’ve looking for. They’re looking for another big man who can block shots. I think they got him. He’s a big steal for them.”
Bynum, a 7-foot, 285-pounder, was originally picked by the Lakers with the 10th pick overall in the 2005 NBA draft. He played his scholastic basketball at St. Joseph High School in Metuchen, N.J. The 24 year-old standout averaged career highs of 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds a game. He was rated 20th in the NBA in scoring, third in rebounding, sixth in blocks (1.93) and fourth in field goal percentage. He joins Dwight Howard who now plays for the Lakers as the only players who tallied at 10 points, 10 rebounds and 1.50 blocks last season.
“I had a chance to spend a couple weeks with Adam Aron [Sixers CEO and co-owner],” Mutombo said. “I told him this is going to be big for them.”
A group led by Joshua Harris, a graduate from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, who has watched the Sixers play for a long time, officially purchased the Philadelphia 76ers from Comcast-Spectator this week. Actually, Harris, 46, became a fan of the team during the 1982–83 season.
That was a big year for professional basketball in this town. The Sixers, led by Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Maurice Cheeks, Andrew Toney and Bobby Jones, won an NBA championship.
Adam Aron, an Abington High graduate, is the Sixers’ new chief executive officer. Aron has watched the Sixers play even longer than Harris. He remembers the 1983 championship team, but also the 1966–67 team, which featured basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer, Billy Cunningham, Chet Walker, Wali Jones and Luke Jackson.
Harris and Aron are joined by investor David Blitzer, who will serve as co-managing owner and an alternate governor of the NBA.
Other investors include Martin Geller, David Heller, Travis Hennings, James Lassiter, Marc Leder, Jason Levien, Michael Rubin, Philadelphia’s own actor Will Smith, and his wife and actress Jada Pinkett Smith, Handy Soetedjo, Erick Thohir and Art Wrubel.
All of the aforementioned have made personal investments in the team and would like to give pro basketball a boost in this town. Harris bought the Sixers for a reported $280 million.
The announcement was made on Tuesday at the Palestra, the city’s legendary basketball arena, which has provided basketball fans with some of the most exciting games this town has ever seen. Harris and Aron talked about slashing ticket prices in addition to receiving input from fans on basketball and other marketing efforts.
The two things Harris and Aron seem to bring to the Sixers is a sense history and genuine interest in the organization beyond money. They’re both successful businessmen. Harris is a managing partner of Apollo Management, L.P., which he co-founded in 1990. According to Forbes, Harris is worth $1.45 billion. Aron was the former chairman and CEO of Vail Resorts, the world’s second largest ski resort operator, which under his direction became one of the nation’s premiere ski destinations.
When Harris was a student at Penn, the Quakers’ big stars were Karl Racine and Perry Bromwell. They won a lot of games for Penn along with a couple Ivy League championships. So, The Palestra was a good backdrop for him. He has a good flavor for basketball in this city and what he would like to accomplish with the Sixers.
“I’m going to be a great fan,” Harris said. “I’m going to be excited. I’m going to be upset when we lose and excited when we win. Having said that, we are going to try to be rational when it comes to making decisions about how we run the team and I think it’s pretty simple. We want to be world class and cutting-edge up and down. Everything we do with this team we want to reflect well on us and to be positive to the community. That’s on the court, that’s off the court and it starts with how we all conduct ourselves.”
Harris and Aron will have a lot of help with running the organization. Rod Thorn, Sixers president, will have a bigger role with the departure of Ed Stefanski, who was the team’s general manager.
As followers of the team, Harris and Aron are aware of what Doug Collins, Sixers head coach, was able to do with this team. Collins led the Sixers to a playoff appearance with a 41-41 record after a 3-13 start. Philly lost to the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs. The Heat went to the NBA Finals before losing to the Dallas Mavericks. The Sixers key players were Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala, Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams, Jodie Meeks, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young.
“Well, I’ll have to be careful with what I say, because I lived in Miami last year,” Aron said. “I watched every game of the Heat-Sixers series, and I can sure tell you, as Josh said, our allegiances are Philadelphia 76ers all the way. Not just to basketball, but maybe to all professional sports. We’re going to be watching a lot of Sixers basketball.”
They’ll be very busy.
PHILADELPHIA — Andre Iguodala snapped a tie game with five straight points in the final 90 seconds to help the Philadelphia 76ers storm back from 15 points down in the first half and stun the Boston Celtics 92-83 on Friday night in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The young Sixers were a team reborn in the second half and played like a squad that refused to roll over for the championship-tested Celtics.
"I don't even know where to start," Philadelphia coach Doug Collins said. "Our guys are pretty amazing. They really are."
The Sixers tied the series at 2-2 with the huge comeback and guaranteed a return home for one more game.
Iguodala, one of the more maligned athletes in recent Philadelphia history, put the Sixers ahead 85-83 with a step-back jumper and buried a 3-pointer for a five-point lead.
Game 5 is Monday in Boston.
Iguodala scored 16 points, Evan Turner had 16 and Lou Williams added 15.
Kevin Garnett had his first bad outing in an otherwise monster series with nine points. With Garnett in a funk, so were the Celtics.
The Sixers just kept attacking, turning a first half of airballs, botched dunks and sloppy defense into a full-blown display of near-flawless basketball.
Thaddeus Young's thunderous slam tied the game at 63 in the middle of the fourth. And when Jodie Meeks drained a 3-pointer on the Sixers' next trip down the court for Philadelphia's first lead 20,000 fans stomped their feet and unleashed two hours of pent-up jubilation.
Williams hounded Paul Pierce and forced a turnover, fed the ball to a streaking Turner for a dunk and put the lead at 68-65.
It was that kind of hustle that brought the Sixers back.
After Garnett blocked a Lavoy Allen shot, Young snagged the ball out of the air and score to make it 74-all.
Game 4 came down to young legs, fresh enthusiasm and untested big-game experience vs. aging, championship-tested stars fighting for another title.
Give the edge to the Sixers.
Iguodala, who has been branded as the face of a mediocre franchise over his eight seasons, has changed that talk with a clutch postseason. He sank the winning free throws in Game 6 to finish off the top-seeded Chicago Bulls in the first round.
And it was Iguodala who finished off the Celtics in Game 4.
Pierce had 24 points and Rajon Rondo had 15 points and 15 assists. Garnett, who turns 36 on Saturday, missed nine of 12 shots. The Celtics look primed for a blowout victory after the first 10 minutes of the game. They hold out hope a trip back to Boston can make them forget about this collapse.
"Coming out of halftime they came out more physical, and we got into that instead of playing basketball. We lost our composure," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.
Philadelphia CEO Adam Aron tweeted at the break, "This will have to be one of the best come backs ever for the (at)Sixers."
Down 15 at the half, the under-25 crew found their spark, their legs and their shooting touch to crank up the pressure on the Celtics.
Williams hit a 3, Iguodala hit a 3, and Williams converted a three-point play to make it 58-54. Williams stood on the free-throw line with the widest smile of anyone in the building and calmly sank the deficit-slicing free throw.
Meeks, a starter-turned-sub, stole an errant pass and went all the way for his first bucket of the game to make it 63-59 at the end of the quarter.
Philadelphia's 10 baskets in the third were one more than their total for the entire half and their 28 points were three shy off their halftime total.
"We're just going to keep fighting," Collins said. "That's what we do."
The Sixers had vowed they would be a more determined team after the veteran Celtics dismantled and demoralized them on their home court in Game 3.
The Sixers said after their 16-point loss in Game 3 that they would return more focused in preventing another hot Celtics start that took them out of the game and sucked the atmosphere out of the Wells Fargo Center.
The Celtics squashed that attitude before thousands of fans had taken their seats moments after the opening tip.
Pierce and Avery Bradley hit 3-pointers, Garnett hit a pull-up 20-footer and the Celtics raced to a 14-0 lead only 3½ minutes into the game.
The Sixers truly couldn't find their footing. Young bounced the ball off his sneaker on a drive down the lane, and Pierce converted on the other end for an 18-3 lead.
The Celtics could never find that extra scoring boost to truly put away the Sixers. Rondo, Garnett and Ray Allen all had quiet first 24 minutes and the Celtics let the lead drop to seven.
Rondo scored an uncontested bucket coming out of a timeout to end the half and put the Celtics up 46-31.
"That was probably the worst we could shoot," Iguodala said. "They were playing as good as they could play and we were shooting poorly."
Notes: The 76ers head to Boston 2-8 over their last 10 road postseason games. ... The Sixers haven't won a playoff series when they trailed 2-1 since 2001. -- (AP)
Philadelphia 76ers CEO and co-owner Adam Aron recently announced that the team has reached an agreement with Julius Erving under which Dr. J will for the next several years formally associate himself in a part-time capacity with his former team as a strategic adviser.
In his new role, which runs at least through 2015, Erving will offer advice and counsel to Aron and Sixers managing owner Joshua Harris, will be available to the 76ers front office and coaches as they may wish from time to time and in numerous ways as his primary focus will interact with Sixers fans and sponsors as a goodwill ambassador for the team.
Looking forward, the 76ers will also explore other ways which will evolve and become over time in which the 76ers can be cooperative with Erving in his professional activities through his holding companies, “Dr. J Enterprises” and “The Erving Group.”
Erving’s outstanding basketball career saw him become the third leading scorer of all time in professional basketball, scoring more than 30,000 points in the ABA and NBA. Most of those took place in his 11 seasons with the Sixers, including the 1982-83 NBA championship season. Erving was repeatedly named an all-star and a Most Valuable Player. In 1993, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. In 1996, Erving was named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history.
Andrew Bynum had an adoring public in front of him and beaming management on stage to his right.
The Philadelphia 76ers had thrown open the doors of a press conference to the public and hundreds of fans, longing for a reason to get excited again, came to chant the name of their new superstar. Eager to win over his new supporters, Bynum worked the faithful into a frenzy. Without playing a game for the Sixers, he said he wanted to make Philadelphia his home — and the team was ready to commit.
"Where do I sign?" owner Joshua Harris said. "Show me the contract."
Harris should be glad now he didn't sign any deals in early August.
Those cheers for Bynum were the only ones the 7-foot center has heard 38 games into a season that has the Sixers spiraling from hopeful Atlantic Division contenders toward the NBA draft lottery. With Bynum, the Sixers expected to make a deep run in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Without him, the Sixers are lagging at 16-22 and entered Monday four games behind Boston for the final spot in the East.
The Sixers can't blame all their woes on missing Bynum.
But he sure would help.
"It's hard to say how it's affected us because we haven't played with him," forward Thaddeus Young said.
Bynum has sat out the season because of bone bruises on both his knees. Bynum, an All-Star last year with the Lakers, in on a six-step rehabilitation process that he hopes will get him back into lineup around the Feb. 15 All-Star break. He's worked weights into his rehab and started running on Monday.
He proclaimed his knees pain free.
"They're the best I've had in a long time, so they look really, really good to me," Bynum told reporters Monday after practice.
Again, Bynum had no true timetable for his return, though "around the All-Star break" was the first new range he suggested in weeks. Bynum's potential return date has been in flux since training camp. One day before practice was set to open, the Sixers announced Bynum would be shut down for three weeks as a precaution after he received knee treatment in Germany. Three weeks has turned into three months. He even injured his left knee while bowling.
He participated in shooting drills with assistant coaches Michael Curry and Brian James, as well as head athletic trainer Kevin Johnson on Monday. Bynum cautioned, though, that he still had plenty of rehabilitation left to complete.
"I'm not back. But I'm headed in that direction," he said. "It's all positive."
The 76ers good use a dose of good news. Their 10-6 start has twisted into a 6-16 stretch entering Tuesday's game against New Orleans. The Sixers hope Saturday's win over Houston to open a stretch of 12 home games in the next 13 can be the calming factor that stabilizes their season. Throw in Bynum's return, and the Sixers just might be able to still make a dent in the postseason.
Team president Rod Thorn and general manager Tony DiLeo would love to know Bynum's availability before the Feb. 21 trade deadline. If Bynum hasn't returned, or the Sixers are still scuffling, the front office could look to make more big trades to win down the road.
Bynum, who averaged 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds last season, would be worth the wait if he matched those numbers.
"We've got Andrew Bynum, All-Star," Young said. "He's a great player and we're willing to wait on him each and every day. He's definitely a focal point of what we're trying to do. He's definitely, 'The guy.' I wouldn't rather have anybody else."
Lavoy Allen and Kwame Brown haven't come close to filling Bynum's numbers at center. Allen has taken a big step back from his rookie season and is averaging only 6.4 points and 5.3 rebounds. Before their 107-100 win over Houston on Saturday, the Sixers ranked 27th in the NBA in scoring (92.2 points) and have regularly failed to even reach 90 points over the last six weeks. They scored more than 89 points for the first time in six games against the Rockets.
Not exactly what CEO Adam Aron expected when he touted at Bynum's arrival, "The Sixers are once again the talk of the town."
The Sixers have lost 13 of their last 17 games but a soft slate of games this week against New Orleans and Toronto could help turn that around.
The struggles haven't fractured the locker room under coach Doug Collins, and the tight unit has bounced back from swoons before.
"We're not going to splinter," Collins said, "not as long as I'm the coach."
DiLeo has repeatedly said he would make the Bynum trade again. What else would he say? Bynum is in the final year of his contract and would love nothing more to return to help the Sixers win and prove he's healthy enough to merit a $100-plus million deal in the summer.
Lost in the shuffle of the Sixers dumping Elton Brand, Lou Williams and Andre Iguodala was their decision to send Nikola Vucevic to Orlando as part of the four-team Bynum trade. Vucevic fell out of Collins' rotation at the end of last season and played in only one of their 13 playoff games. The 7-footer is sixth in the NBA in rebounds (11.0) and is making only $1.76 million — scraps compared to the $16.75 million Bynum will earn this season.
Bynum is eligible for a five-year contract after July 1, once he becomes an unrestricted free agent. The Sixers can offer Bynum more years and money than any other team. With good reason, they want to know what kind of Bynum is on the market: The L.A. All-Star or the Sixers' Sidelined Center. -- (AP)