After months of waiting, the Sixers finally, officially have their new owners in place. Joshua Harris and Adam Aron took center stage and provided a rough blueprint for how they plan to bring this franchise back to the top of the league, at least on the business side of things.
Harris and Aron addressed what will probably be their two biggest hurdles in rebuilding - or maybe refurbishing - this franchise. First, they need to get more people in the seats. Their simple solution to was to immediately, dramatically drop the price of a ton of tickets. This isn't a token thing, they dropped the price of 51% of all tickets, with some pretty nice lower level seats getting a hefty discount. It's not rocket science, a butt in a $29 seat paying for parking, concessions and merchandise is worth a whole lot more than an empty $54 seat. Ed Snider should probably be mocked for standing firm with his ticket prices while the arena was half-empty, but no use kicking a dead horse. Let's just say this is a positive first step.
The second big move was for this ownership group to distance itself from the mistakes made by the previous one in the near past. Exit Ed Stefanski. Stefanski caught some bad luck early in his tenure with the Sixers, but the mistakes he made in his final year as the decision maker are unforgivable. If Stefanski didn't go, there's no way Harris and Aron could possibly sell this as a new beginning for the franchise. According to Harris, Rod Thorn has control of the roster. Thorn hasn't done a whole lot since taking over, but he really hasn't had a full offseason yet. The Dalembert trade and the Evan Turner pick both happened before he came to Philly last summer, and rumor has it he couldn't pull a trade off before the draft even if he wanted to.
Whether or not Thorn has autonomy to make whatever moves he wants to may not be material, though. The key thing is the mandate given to Thorn. The Sam Dalembert trade was a cost-cutting move, pure and simple. For the past two seasons, the Sixers haven't made a single move that would increase their payroll for that season. The clear mandate from ownership was to freeze or lower the payroll. It's hard for any GM to look good when lowering costs immediately takes priority over winning basketball games in the near or long term. If Thorn's marching orders change, and I have to believe they will, maybe we'll start to see some smart moves out of this front office.
Another big selling point in today's press conference was fan interaction. To that end, they've launched a site
where fans can contact them directly with suggestions. Better communication with the fans is a bigger deal than you'd think these days, hopefully it doesn't end with this e-suggestion box.
There's really nothing to complain about today as a Sixers fan. Snider is gone, Stefanski is gone. The new owners are saying and doing all the right things right from the jump. Things appear to be heading in the right direction.
Unfortunately, things are going to get harder from here. First, Harris needs the lockout to end. All this hoopla is happening in a black hole right now. It's a temporary distraction from the meetings going on in New York. If the labor dispute ends shortly, maybe they can build on this momentum when player movement begins. If no deal is struck, however, then all the good will they build up with the public in the short term will be completely forgotten by the time games start. If a deal is struck, then Harris is going to be put on the spot immediately, because this team is probably going to have to make a decision on Thaddeus Young in a very short time frame. If Thad is allowed to walk, that will say something to the average fan, even if it's the right move to make from a financial (and a basketball) standpoint. Will the new owners have the nerve to make the right move, even if it's an unpopular move, right out of the gates? Right when they're trying to win over a disenfranchised fan base? There's no way to tell, I guess we're just going to have to cross our fingers and hope for the best.