I think we all have an intellectual understanding of what is going on in Philadelphia: In that market the draft is the way to rebuild, and if you’re going to go with the “be bad to be good” plan then don’t sugar coat it, don’t do it halfway, go all in. We’re still a few years away from seeing if this grand experiment works.
But if I were a season ticket holder paying hard-earned cash to see this team I would be frustrated. Actually, forget frustrated, I’d be angry. Because even if I get intellectually what this team is trying to do why am I paying good money and dragging my butt out of a warm home on a cold Philly winter night to see this Sixers team? This is not good basketball.
Some frustrated season ticket holders vented at Sixers CEO Scott O’Neil in an article by David Aldridge at NBA.com (that has great nuance and you should read the entire thing).
“A couple of years ago, you guys raised the prices when Andrew Bynum came here,” (a frustrated fan) tells the team’s chief executive officer. “And that didn’t work out. We paid for tickets, and then the [Jrue Holiday] trade happened. So we paid last year to watch nothing. And then this year, we bought tickets thinking we were gonna watch two lottery picks. The point is, we’re paying the same prices other people are paying … We’re paying what everybody is paying, and we’re watching three players out of 15 that would make [other] NBA teams…..
“I do understand the process,” another says. “And the process makes sense. But in 37 years, this is probably one of the worst teams I’ve watched … [for] those people that have endured these two years, and hoping we draft somebody that won’t be in Europe next year, draft somebody we can see and watch, give people [something] that have been there just those two years. You say ‘Together We Build.’ Bottom line, we’re trying to tank. Tank is probably a bad way to put it. But my thought is, cut to the chase.”
The Sixers refuse to say the word tank, and if you define tanking as “telling the coach/players to throw games” they are not. This is institutional tanking — put a bad roster together, play the young guys, and let what happens happen.
It’s ugly. It’s so embarrassing the other NBA owners almost changed the draft lottery system to discourage/punish them. And there are legitimate questions about the system — what are Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel and the rest really learning from this? Why not have a couple real professional vets in the locker room to lead these young guys?
That said, the organization will tell you it sold more season ticket packages this year than last, and that most fans get the plan. Frankly, most of the fans venting at O’Neil understand the plan.
That doesn’t make it any easier to watch. What do that fans really think?
Per ESPN.com, the 76ers rank 28th in attendance, averaging 15,178 fans per home game. If those numbers are accurate and held up, that would represent an increase of more than 1,300 people per game over last season, when Philly averaged 13,869 fans per home game. Against the Celtics on Nov. 19, they drew 12,701 fans to Wells Fargo Arena. But tickets for the Nov. 21 game vs. Phoenix were available on StubHub for $10.95.
Here’s what O’Neil knows — if come 2018 the young players on this team blossom like management hopes selling tickets will not be an issue. Sponsors will fall over themselves to be tied to the team in any way. Philadelphia has passionate, loyal, smart fans but that doesn’t change one of the immutable facts of professional sports: Everybody wants to be associated with a winner. In America, winning cures almost all ills.
We’ll know in a couple years if everyone is falling all over each other to be mentioned with the Sixers. Or if they have to go with another plan.