Sixers' Harris: Implosion always part of plan

Posted: October 01, 2013

THE MASTER PLAN, according to 76ers owner Josh Harris, had always been to implode the organization he took over before the 2011-12 season. It's just that a very good season got in the way and kind of put the blueprints back in their casings - for a short time.

Harris talked to the media after his team finished its morning workout at Saint Joseph's University yesterday, and openly admitted that the rebuild is in place. Not exactly earth-shattering news, as anyone who has a remote interest in this team can plainly see the restructuring process. What was sort of surprising was Harris saying this was his vision all along.

"If you think about the history, we took over and then we outperformed everyone's expectations," Harris said. "We were 10-2 [actually 10-3] and we won a lot early and then we obviously had that magical series where we knocked off the Bulls. I would say that I always had a vision for the use of advanced analytics, the use of sports science, health, nutrition, and I always had a vision for really creating excellence on and off the court.

"When I first bought the team, there were elements of the decision-making that I noticed weren't how I would have done it. But at the same time we did so well that first season that I chose to stick with the plan. The second season was a big disappointment and that made me feel empowered that it was the right time to make a bunch of changes. I've always had the same vision, but I took it a little more slowly given the success of the first season."

That season could have been fool's gold, a favorite term of then-coach Doug Collins. Sure, there was a positive start, but the final record was 35-31. And yes, they did beat Chicago in the first round of the playoffs, but Bulls star Derrick Rose tore an ACL in the first game and Joakim Noah missed games later. They did take an aging Boston team to a Game 7 in the conference semifinals before falling.

Harris did give a big hint that changes were coming as he approved of trading of Andre Iguodala in the infamous Andrew Bynum deal. But that was more of an attempt at an immediate strike. Now, with the trade of Jrue Holiday and a roster filled with youngsters (with probably more moves on the horizon), total reconstruction is under way.

"I'm very excited about some of the changes we made in the offseason and some of the people we have, obviously our coach [Brett Brown] and our GM [Sam Hinkie], our CEO [Scott O'Neil], they're all new," Harris said. "I think that we're really putting the pieces in place to build a strong foundation for a consistently winning, competitive, championship team. That's always been my goal and I've always had that vision, so now we're doing it. I'm very excited where we are. It's nice to see the level of intensity in practice, the youth in practice, the new coaches. It all feels like a different place, it's exciting.

"I'm not a patient person by nature. I want immediate results and immediate upsides. But I think the reality of professional sports is that things don't change overnight. There are 29 other owners and everyone wants to win and everyone is smart and everyone is resourced, so it's all about getting an edge, and I think the edge starts with putting the right people in place in management. When we were able to get Sam Hinkie and Scott O'Neil and coach Brown, these are really people who are 'A' players. I feel very excited about those moves, and then you have to work on putting pieces in place on the court. That doesn't happen overnight, it happens over time.

"And then you have to work on other edges. We continue to talk broadly about analytics and sports science and health, fitness, nutrition. These are edges over time that, in my opinion, make us successful and make us win. I'm very confident we're going to get there. I'm very impatient, but at the same time I'm also pragmatic. I understand where we are if you think about the assets we have today. I understand where we are and I understand where we're going and I'm going to push everyone to get there as soon as possible, but I think we all have to be realistic."

His recent acquisition of the NHL's New Jersey Devils didn't sit well with many Philadelphia fans. Harris knows this and says he wants Sixers fans to know that his passion and plan for his basketball team hasn't changed.

"I understand if you are born and bred and live in Philadelphia, I can certainly understand that you are an all-Philly fan," Harris said. "I acknowledge that. But my answer to the fans is that I love the Sixers in Philly and am commited to it . . . I have personal ties in Philly through my mom and in Newark [N.J.] through my dad. The fact that I also own a hockey team in Newark doesn't change at all my commitment to the Sixers in basketball. I'm here on a Sunday with my family. I've been at the games, I'll be at the games. I'll be resourcing the team when it makes sense. The number of hours I've spent putting in place Scott and Sam and Brett was enormous. Totally focused on the Sixers and won't change one iota how driven I am to make this team a championship team."

Six shots

The team held a 2-hour practice in the morning before a night session at Hagan Arena. Asked about its seemingly inadequate three-point shooting threat, Brett Brown talked of footwork and being at the right spot in order to be better long-range shooters. He added, however: "I want to stress that I am not three-happy. We need to get to the rim, get to the paint. Yes, we understand the benefit of the three-point line, but we're not going to not be smart in how we get threes and how we encourage threes" . . .

Inactive for the practices were Kwame Brown (hamstring), Nerlens Noel (knee), Jason Richardson (knee), Arnett Moultrie (ankle) and Lavoy Allen (knee). Noel, Richardson and Moultrie will be out for months and Brown probably isn't in the picture for this season (can you say buyout?). Allen's injury was cleared up a little by Brown: "It's his knee. He hurt his knee and it's something that's been lingering and there's always a balance of when do you work him into it or you just have to shut shop and get him right" . . .

When asked what practice was like, Evan Turner said: "We're running a lot. It's really like playing basketball. Certain sets you play out of, but for the most part we're trying to score early" . . . Once again, James Anderson was with the first string at shooting guard. "It's a different opportunity for me to be with the first group," said Anderson, who has started six games and averaged 3.7 points in three seasons. He was drafted by San Antonio with the 20th pick in 2010. He and Brown overlapped for two seasons with the Spurs.

On Twitter: @BobCooney76


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