New Sixers CEO apologizes for Andrew Bynum debacle, preaches patience

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It was a gamble, but I still contend at the time the Philadelphia 76ers made a good one — they had a chance to get Andrew Bynum fresh off a season where he played in 60 of 66 games (it was the lockout year), averaged 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds a game, and shot 55.8 percent. He was an All-Star. He was a big who could make them a threat in the East where the big power was going small.

We all know that ended — Philly pushed its chips in the middle and then the cards gave them a bad beat. Bynum never played a game and essentially the Sixers got nothing out of the Andre Iguodala trade. That bust forced new GM Sam Hinkie to hit the rebuild button again, which led to the trade of Jrue Holiday for Nerlens Noel.

New Sixers CEO Scott O’Neil, went on Sportsradio 94 with Angelo Cataldi and apologized to fans for the Bynum debacle, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“I apologize on behalf of the Sixers to any fan who invested and thought Bynum was going to be their guy and be the savior,” said O’Neil, while being a guest on Cataldi’s radio show. “At the end of the day that’s our apology to every fan – not just to you [he told Cataldi].

“However, we are going to take some chances when we can take some chances. And sometimes, they’re not going to work. And sometimes, they are. When they don’t work, we are not going to ever talk about a player negatively. That’s not going to help us or the franchise or the fans. That’s not going to help us recruit. It doesn’t help us go out and grab free agents. It doesn’t help us when we are evaluating talent. It doesn’t help us when we are talking to coaches. It just doesn’t help.”

O’Neil hit the right tone speaking with CSNPhilly.com — being patient sucks when you are a fan, but Sixers fans need to do it again. The plan laid out now is a good course — get bad to get good. If you’re going to be bad, the deepest draft since 2003 is the year to do it.

“We certainly hear (complaints from fans). Where our focus is when we hear it is pretty clearly to talk about what the plan is, and we like this plan,” he said….

“Sam (Hinkie) has set us up with cap flexibility to make some moves that will set us up for long-term, sustainable greatness,” O’Neil said. “We don’t want to flex between 38 and 42 [wins]. We can do that. We’ve done it. We’ve done it for a decade. We’re not happy with that, the fans aren’t happy with that and we’re going to have to make some changes to make sure we’re going in the right direction.”

If the Sixers brought back Jrue Holiday to pair with Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young, the Sixers would have been around a .500 team, maybe made the playoffs (maybe not) and be stuck in a rut that is the middle of the NBA pack. If you want to win rings, that rut is not the place to be.

There are real risks in getting bad to get good. It’s a gamble, and sometimes when you gamble the cards don’t go your way. But it’s better to do that than stand pat and play it safe all the time.

Magic Johnson shrugs off concern about Lonzo Ball realty series

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Lonzo Ball has yet to play in one NBA game, yet he has his own signature shoe line, and he — along with his father LaVar Ball and the rest of his family — have their own reality show on FaceBook. Lonzo told me he doesn’t foresee this show, nor his bombastic father, being a problem with his teammates or on the court.

Magic Johnson agrees with that. At least for now.

The head of Lakers’ basketball operations said as training camp opened that he’s not worried about the show Ball in the Family being a distraction. If it is, he’ll step in, he told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“Only time I am going to concern myself with what [Lonzo] does off the court is if it is affecting his play on the court,” Johnson said at the Lakers’ media day when asked about Ball’s reality Facebook series, “Ball in the Family.”

“Right now, I think it is awesome,” Johnson said. “His family is great. They came out Saturday, we had a big Laker picnic. … His dad is wonderful with me, and I am cool with him. … I think [Lonzo] is tired of all this [hype]. He is just like me; I just want to play and I think he wants to play, and then Saturday night [for the Lakers’ preseason opener], sold out, in Anaheim, wow!”

It’s Magic’s job to put a positive spin on things.

That said, he’s right. The Lakers (and every NBA team) have dealt with overinvolved parents before and know how to create some space for the player to focus on the game. Locker rooms have a way of sorting themselves out in these kinds of situations. Plus, the Lakers have been down the reality show road before (when Lamar Odom married Khloe Kardashian), and while that had an ugly ending, it wasn’t for lack of Lakers’ players and others in the organization trying to step in and help. (Odom just wasn’t yet in a place to accept help.)

Soon LaVar will be focused on his other sons and Lonzo, who appears practiced at tuning his father out and focusing on what is in front of him, will have the grind of the NBA schedule to worry about.

Former NBA player Chuck Person named in college basketball bribery scandal

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The recruitment of major college athletes — and then the steering of the handful that get to go pro to shoe companies and agents — is a sleazy business. It makes HBO’s “The Duece” look like Disneyland. It’s something sports fans know but largely turn a blind eye to until it forces its way into the headlines.

It turned up in the headlines Tuesday when four college assistant coaches from major universities were charged by federal prosecutors in a bribery scandal along with a representative of Adidas and others to steer players to specific agents or a financial handler.

Former NBA Rookie of the Year Chuck Person, now an assistant coach at Auburn, was among those named in the scandal.

Person is making headlines because he’s the biggest name in the scandal. He is charged with accepting approximately $91,500 from a business manager, who has flipped and is working with prosecutors. This “business manager, offered bribes to Person to steer players toward his services, as well as another person charged in the scandal.

Person told prosecutors he gave $18,500 of the money he took to two players’ families, according to the filings.

Person was the No. 4 pick in the 1986 NBA draft and went on to win Rookie of the Year, followed by a 13-year NBA career. He made $22.9 million over the course of his career.

PBT Podcast: Cavaliers, Bucks, Central Division Preview with Dan Feldman

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LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers remain the team to beat in the East — I’m not picking against his team to win the Eastern Conference until someone beats them. This year’s Cavaliers may be deeper than previous years.

However, much of the Central Division is intriguing this season. Milwaukee is a team that, on paper, should take a step forward, but never seem to do that two years in a row. Still, they have Giannis Antetokounmpo and that makes them must watch. Detroit has one of the best centers in the game in Andre Drummond, and they have Marcus Smart on the roster now, but can Reggie Jackson bounce back? Then there are the Bulls and Pacers, both of whom are rebuilding.

Kurt Helin and Detroit-based Dan Feldman of NBC Sports break down the Central Division in this latest PBT Podcast.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes (just click the button under the podcast), subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out our new PBT podcast homepage and archive at Audioboom.com.

Reports: Dwyane Wade “leaning heavily” toward joining Cavaliers

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This race may have been decided before it ever started.

While Miami has the draw of home, and Paul George and Russell Westbrook have come hard at him, it seems Dwyane Wade always knew where he wanted to be after Chicago — reunited with LeBron James. Just now in Cleveland. From Joe Vardon of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Dwyane Wade is leaning heavily toward the Cavaliers as his new team once he clears waivers and may have already decided on a reunion with LeBron James, league sources with knowledge of Wade’s thinking told cleveland.com…

Wade has given no indication publicly what he will do, and at least three teams — the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, and his old team the Miami Heat — are interested in him. His agent is taking calls from those teams and others, and Wade told the Associated Press he would do his due diligence as well.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN confirmed this.

This is not a shock.

What does Wade want in a destination? A chance to make another run at a ring, minutes, and a comfort level with the organization. Cleveland provides all of those, plus easy access to the Gravy Fries at Greenhouse Tavern (which may not be on Wade’s in-season approved list by his nutritionist).

Even without Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers are and should be the favorite to come out of the East, then take their swings at the Warriors (or whoever comes out of the West, I feel obligated to write just to be nice to the folks in Houston and Oklahoma City). The Cavaliers are smack in the middle of the NBA’s second tier. Wade averaged an efficient 18.3 points per game for the Bulls last season, and he can for stretches still dial-up his vintage self and dominate games.

Wade would probably start at the two over J.R. Smith, and even if he came off the bench he could get just about all the minutes his aging knees will handle. That said, I’m not sure the Cavs can play Wade and Derrick Rose together, particularly during the playoffs, due to spacing and defensive issues. And obviously, with his good friend LeBron there, Wade has comfort with the organization (just don’t expect him to sign more than a one-year deal).

This was always the most likely outcome, Wade and LeBron together again for one more run.