Scott O'Neil

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.

Spurs honor Kobe Bryant in his last game in San Antonio (VIDEO)

LOS ANGELES - MARCH 30:  Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers stands next to Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs on March 30, 2006 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  The Spurs won 96-85. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Kobe Bryant farewell tour has gone all around the NBA, but some stops are more emotional than others. His final trip to San Antonio certainly qualifies — the Spurs and Lakers have played each other in the playoffs eight times in his career, including twice in the Western Conference Finals (the Lakers won both times). The only player who has rivaled Bryant’s longevity is Tim Duncan, and the Lakers and Spurs were the two most dominant teams of the 2000s, winning nine of the 12 championships from 1999 to 2010 between them.

So, of course, the Spurs had an elaborate tribute video planned for Bryant. The video ran two and a half minutes and featured narration from Gregg Popovich, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Watch it below:

Report: Clippers’ Austin Rivers has broken hand, out 4-6 weeks

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 29:  Austin Rivers #25 of the Los Angeles Clippers scores on a layup past D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers during a 105-93 win at Staples Center on January 29, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Clippers are without Blake Griffin for the next few weeks as he recovers from a broken hand stemming from an altercation with an equipment manager. Now, the Clippers have lost backup point guard Austin Rivers to the exact same injury, albeit not in the same circumstances, obviously.

The loss of Rivers isn’t as devastating as the loss of Griffin, but given the Clippers’ lack of depth, it’s certainly not ideal. Now, Chris Paul‘s only backup is Pablo Prigioni.

Warriors hold off late Thunder run to remain undefeated at home

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For once, a marquee matchup involving the Golden State Warriors lived up to its billing. Their much-hyped meetings with the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs were anticlimactic blowouts nearly free of drama. And for the first half on Saturday night’s 116-108 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, it seemed like the defending champions were headed for another snoozer. They led by as much as 20, and completely outmatched the Thunder on both ends of the floor.

But the Thunder rallied behind a surprising defensive effort in the second half and some solid play from Enes Kanter. Plus, you know, Kevin Durant, who led all scorers with 40 points and gave the normally unflappable Draymond Green fits defensively. They tied the game at 104 before Golden State pulled away.

Despite the huge first-half lead, the Warriors weren’t their usual selves. Stephen Curry shot 1-for-8 from behind the three-point line, and triple-double machine Draymond Green scored just nine points. Golden State’s most consistent player was Harrison Barnes, who has probably read the speculation that the Warriors would have to dump him to land Durant this summer. He hit three three-pointers and shot 8-for-14 overall on the way to 19 points.

The Warriors’ bench carried them for stretches, outscoring Oklahoma City’s reserves 42-17.

Despite the Thunder’s late run, this was a statement win for the Warriors. They sent the message that, even when they aren’t in total control from start to finish, they can still pull away from other elite teams. The Thunder have given them the toughest challenge of any team they’ll likely have to face in the late rounds of the playoffs this spring, and it’s to their credit that they took the first-half punch and came back to make it a game. But the Warriors are on a different level from the rest of the league, and they showed that clearly on Saturday.

Kevin Durant brushes off free-agency speculation: “Once that time comes, I’ll make that decision”

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 05:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder drives on Harrison Barnes #40 of the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on January 5, 2015 in Oakland, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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It goes without saying that with the Thunder and Warriors playing each other for the first time on Saturday night, Kevin Durant free-agency talk has been at an all-time high. The hot rumor this week is that the Warriors are the frontrunners to land Durant this summer, which would shake up the league like nothing since LeBron James going to Miami.

Obviously, all parties were going to be asked about it before the hotly anticipated game. And obviously, all parties were going to downplay it. That’s exactly what happened.

Here’s what Durant said, via the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Rusty Simmons:

“Once that time comes, I’ll make that decision. I’ll sit down and talk to my closest friends and family and figure it out, but right now, I’m just trying to be the best basketball player I can be every single day. I have to be at a high level to lead every day at practices, shootarounds and games, and that’s a tough task. I can’t focus on anything else, other than that.”

Warriors coach Steve Kerr also downplayed the speculation:

“I don’t know why anybody would talk about anything but the fact that we’re 45-4 and have a hell of a team,” said Kerr, who hasn’t addressed rumors about Durant favoring the Bay Area as a future destination with his players. “Why would anybody talk about some different team, future stuff and other players?

“Focus on our team. We’re pretty good.”

On both sides, that’s the appropriate way to respond publicly. Not that this is going to go away anytime soon. They play each other two more times this season, once in Oklahoma City and once more in Oakland, and this is going to get brought up then, too. And just like Saturday, nobody will give a definitive answer. Nor should they. Nobody will know anything until July 1. But until then, it will be impossible to quiet the chatter.