NEW OWNER Joshua Harris and CEO Adam Aron have been working tirelessly since taking over the 76ers to bind the team to the basketball faithful of this city.
At the team's first training camp session Friday, Aron talked with reporters about the mascot voting, which included a moose, a dog and a Ben Franklin. He also relayed how sleep has been minimal (an hour or so here, 36 straight hours of work); how fans' emails are being pored over; and how the game-day experience will be much improved.
All the while, coach Doug Collins and his team were on the floor, going through their first workout to prepare for the start of an abbreviated 66-game season.
Though Aron and Harris have focused their energies into off-the court endeavors, they both know that what happens on the 94 x 50 hardwood is what matters most. Wins sell more than mascots, fancy introduction music and website videos.
"They want us to win," Harris said yesterday after watching his team practice for the first time. "People say they appreciate all this, but at the same time, 'Deliver us wins.' "
Harris' presence at the 3-hour morning session at Saint Joseph's went unnoticed to reporters at first, as he was in casual attire, with a newspaper tucked under his arm. He hopes his time as owner is far more attention-grabbing.
"We obviously had a lot of work to do on the business side in terms of creating the better fan experience and engaging with the fans, trying to get their input and then implement some of that," Harris said. "Adam is sort of on the non-basketball side, working literally 24-7."
The group, which unofficially took over in July, was given extra time to get ready for the season, due to the 149-day lockout. It was time well spent, Harris said.
"It was very beneficial from that point of view," he said about the added time. "On the basketball side, it's hard to say. Clearly, we got our team back and that team was doing very well last season, clearly improving towards the end of the season. Is the short-season going to work for or against us? I don't know. I don't have an answer to that.
"But Doug is great and he's in command, but he's letting his assistant coaches run some of the practice, which is great, and the players are engaged and really happy to be here. Everyone seems great and the team seems like it's ready to go and hopefully do great this season. So we're excited."
As is the coach.
"It's fun," said Collins. "This is his first chance to be here and see the guys and see the thing that he's invested in and get excited. The games and the basketball is the fun part, so finally he gets to see that side of it."
On the court, Collins had his full team for the first time. Center Spencer Hawes, who signed his 1-year, $4.1 million qualifying offer, was on the practice floor at Hagan Arena. With Friday's agreement with Thaddeus Young on a 5-year deal, Collins can now move full-steam ahead.
"Spencer looks really, really good," said Collins of the center who started all but one game last season. "He's so smart and he's skilled. His body looks good, he looks bouncy. Just where he is this year as opposed to last year is miles ahead. He just needs to play bigger, play more around the basket. He had a tendency last year to drift a little bit. I want him [inside more]. I want him, when he catches the ball in the post, to look for a quick post move. And then, also, to be a little bit better open shooter for us this year."
Collins said the goal for his team is to shoot 47 percent or better from the floor this season. Last year's squad shot 46.1 percent, which put it in the middle of the NBA pack. Seven teams shot 47 percent or better, including the champion Dallas Mavericks. Those seven teams combined to win 64 percent of their games.
After Friday's training camp-opening practice at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, followed by a team dinner, Andre Iguodala made good on a promise.
Iguodala showed up at Spike Eskin's "End of the Lockout" party at Chickie's & Pete's, posing for pictures, talking with fans and signing autographs. A very good crowd of Sixers fans, not knowing that Iguodala would show up, was on hand.
As new ownership continues to try to endear itself to fans, Iguodala's appearance was terrific, though the forward's actions were probably done without any push from the higher-ups.
Speaking of Iguodala, if anyone welcomed the long layoff due to the lockout, it was the Sixers' 6-6 swingman. He played a career-low 67 games last season, slowed for most of the year by chondromalacia in his right knee. He still managed to put average 14.1 points, 6.3 assists and 5.8 rebounds.
He spent the summer before last season winning a World Championship with Team USA in Greece, then hurried back to Philadelphia to start the NBA grind. This summer was far less hectic.
"The time off was incredible for me, it was like the weight of the world was off my shoulders," said Iguodala, with a broad smile. "This year I didn't have to rush back. I was in good shape last year, but my body was tired. This summer I had a chance to really relax. My knee is where I expected it to be, no real problems at all. I really don't have to do anything before practice to get prepared."
Despite often being the subject of trade rumors and the target of the ire of many fans, Iguodala is here and Collins drools at the thought of what this team can be with Iguodala at his best, both mentally and physically.
"Dre is in a great, great place," Collins said.
The Sixers also had a 2-hour session last night, which guard Jrue Holiday missed due to a strained left Achilles' tendon. He is listed as day-to-day. The Sixers are slated for a 3-hour afternoon session today then a double-session tomorrow before their last workout of training camp on Wednesday. The first of two preseason games is Friday at Washington.