Sixers rookies Moultrie and Harkless meet and greet fans

New Sixers Maurice Harkless and Arnett Moultrie (right) spent the day at the Jersey Shore.
New Sixers Maurice Harkless and Arnett Moultrie (right) spent the day at the Jersey Shore. (CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 22, 2012

AVALON, N.J. - Arnett Moultrie and Maurice Harkless sat next to each other behind a foldout table in the back of a white tent protecting them from a scattering light rain.

To Harkless' left were two clowns painting faces and blowing up giraffe balloons. To Moultrie's right was a large speaker blaring Lady Gaga at the control of a middle-aged white DJ. And in front of them stood a growing line of autograph-seeking fans, many wearing a 76ers jersey, T-shirt or hat.

The two 76ers rookies, both first-round selections, rarely looked at each other. They each held a black Sharpie and signed everything that was put on the table in front of them. They posed for pictures and smiled at waving fans.

This is one of their responsibilities as the team's brightest rookies. They'll head to 10 or so Sixers events before camp opens and repeat what is soon to become a routine of autographs and pictures.

But at the 13th annual Sixers Beach Bash on Saturday afternoon, the duo - perhaps the future of the organization - were at their first public Sixers-sponsored event.

Here, the "dream team" of Sixers female dancers gave three shows in three different outfits, and children spent their time on small carnival-style rides and playing games.

"This isn't rookie hazing," Moultrie said. "That may come at camp. This is just part of what we have to do as new Sixers. It's been a good time to see all these fans. I really didn't know what to expect."

Halfway through the Beach Bash, Sixers second-year CEO Adam Aron made his way to the outdoor festivities.

Aron is personable and well known by the fans who came out to say hello and let Aron know which players he should sign and which he should not. His popularity, in part, stems from his Twitter account, on which he is open to tweeting about the team's plans and has more than 20,000 followers.

"It's always exciting to be with our fans," Aron said. "I'm always talking with them on Twitter, so it's great to talk face-to-face with them."

At the beginning of the NBA's free-agency period, Aron tweeted that he was looking for the Sixers to get bigger, more athletic and younger.

He's also made it clear that his goal is to win a championship here.

"The question is when, not if," Aron said. "We want to bring another parade to Philly."

One of the keys to Aron's plan this summer has been short, flexible contracts. Those contracts are intended to open cap space for the Sixers heading into next summer's star-studded free-agency class that features to-be unrestricted free agents Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Manu Ginobili and Andrew Bynum.

"Next year's free agency class is outstanding," Aron said. "We've given ourselves a lot of flexibility long term."

The other part of Aron's plan has been adding youth, size and better shooters to Doug Collins' current roster.

The team started by selecting Harkless and trading for Moultrie at the draft. Both are extremely athletic. Harkless is a small forward who can drive to the hoop. Moultrie is a 6-foot-11 power forward who can block shots and rack up rebounds.

"Doug is very excited about the team," Aron said.

Similar to Twitter, fans here were quick to offer their opinions.

"I was not happy about the Kwame Brown signing," Joe Lukach, who traveled here with his father of the same name, said.

"I think they've gotten better," Kevin Seifert, who attended every home game last season, said.

Harkless and Moultrie stayed out of the debate.


Contact Chad Graff at cgraff@philly.com and follow him on Twitter @ChadGraff.

|
|
|
|
|