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Volume 25 No. 199

Franchises

76ers officials see Brand as someone who can be a public face and win over fans
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

The 76ers "stayed in house and hired Elton Brand" as their new GM, with Brand "expected to be introduced" during a news conference tomorrow, according to Keith Pompey of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. Brand had previously been 76ers VP/Basketball Operations and G League Delaware Blue Coats GM. Brand retired from playing in '16, "ending a 17-year career," and now goes from playing for 76ers coach Brett Brown to "being a peer to being his boss in 23 months." Brown, who served as interim GM following Bryan Colangelo's departure, joined 76ers CEO Scott O'Neil and co-Managing Partners Josh Harris and David Blitzer in the "interviewing and hiring process." Sources said that the 76ers "wanted their next GM to be someone who will be a public face and win over the fans." That "fits the well-respected Brand, who was regarded as one of the best locker room guys in the NBA." He is "someone players can relate to." Pompey notes Brand will "basically have to learn on the job" after just one year in charge of the Blue Coats. But the 76ers "always said experience wasn't a prerequisite." The ownership group "conducted second interviews" with Jazz Assistant GM Justin Zanik on Sunday and Rockets Exec VP/Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas on Monday before deciding on Brand (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/19). ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski noted Brand "made a strong impression on ownership" during the interview process. Ultimately, ownership "believed Brand had sold them on vision, preparedness and the ability to grow into the role at a crucial time for the organization" (ESPN.com, 9/18).

FAMILIARITY A SELLING POINT: USA TODAY's Jeff Zillgitt writes the 76ers hired Brand because of his ability to "command the respect of NBA owners." Also because of his "business savvy" and his ability to "relate to players" (USA TODAY, 9/19). NBCSPORTSPHILADELPHIA.com's Matt Haughton wrote the 76ers "went with a familiar face who is expected to operate in their desired collaborative method to run the front office" (NBCSPORTSPHILADELPHIA.com, 9/18). ESPN's Mike Golic said people saw the 76ers hiring Brand "possibly down the road but maybe not as fast as it's happening because it's happening at light speed." ESPN's Mike Golic Jr. said the 76ers are a franchise where "youth has been the story" for the "longest time now." Golic Jr.: "That is what the ground swell of success and support has been about for this team, so (Brand) fits right in with the culture" ("Golic & Wingo," ESPN Radio, 9/19).

WORK IN PROGRESS: In Philadelphia, Sarah Todd writes bringing in an outside hire who would have "wanted more power was not what the Sixers were looking for." But in the new partnership between Brown and Brand, it is "still unclear who will have the final say" in the decision-making process. At some point, one of them "will likely have to take responsibility" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/19). THE RINGER's Paolo Uggetti wrote Brand is an "internal hire, but a bold one." He "doesn't have a front-office pedigree." However, the hiring of Brand is a "boon for Brown" in that he does not need to continue in a dual coach-GM role (THERINGER.com, 9/18). Meanwhile, THE ATHLETIC's Rich Hofmann writes the hiring of Brand is a "fascinating move that will face a lot of scrutiny." Hofmann: "Unorthodox, but hey, what about this search hasn't been?" (THEATHLETIC.com, 9/19).

TWITTER REAX: Philadelphia-based WIP-FM's Spike Eskin: "Brand is a great guy and obviously very smart and knows the game but this is quite a curveball." ESPN's Pablo Torre: "I hope Elton Brand is a good GM. I just have no idea what the Sixers are even doing." 76ers blogger Eric Sidewater: "Brilliant move promoting Elton Brand to GM. You get the consensus builder who won't shut the door on the analytics department, but also the guy who can entice potential FAs." The Athletic's Derek Bodner: "I see a lot of takes that Elton Brand helps the Sixers in free agency next year. If that's your stance, I'd argue you're vastly overrating the impact a GM has in luring max level free agents."

MOVIN' ON UP: The INQUIRER's Pompey notes in addition to promoting Brand, the 76ers yesterday "elevated Alex Rucker" to Exec VP/Basketball Operations. Rucker was previously Senior VP/Analytics & Strategy. He is now "second in command in the Sixers front office," followed by Assistant GM Ned Cohen, then Senior VP/Player Personnel Marc Eversley (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/19).

The initiative's founding board participated in exercises at the Tampa PD training facility
Photo: BUCCANEERS

The Buccaneers unveiled the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Social Justice Initiative, which was created with $1M in "matching funds from the Glazer family that owns the Bucs," according to Rick Stroud of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. The initiative's founding board, which includes WR DeSean Jackson, DT Gerald McCoy, OT Donovan Smith, G Ali Marpet and about 15 other teammates, yesterday "participated in police specialty team demonstrations and scenario-based exercises at the TPD training facility." They also "held a question and answer session with Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan." Bucs co-Owner and Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation President Darcie Glazer Kassewitz said that Bucs players "identified four areas that needed the most help: police relations, criminal justice reform, racial equality and youth empowerment." Stroud notes the Bucs players have "three more events scheduled this year" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 9/19). McCoy said of the Glazer family, "They heard us, and not only did they hear us, they put their money where their mouth is. It's not just about the financing they offered up. They offered us an opportunity, and for us, this is huge." Jackson, who took a knee in protest during the national anthem in Week 3 of last season, said that he "feels better about the chances for progress and resolution a year later." Jackson: "I feel a little bit better. Still a lot of work that needs to be done in the country and this society. But definitely, from last year to right now, it's a huge change." Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn was in attendance for yesterday's announcement and said that he "hopes the Bucs' plan can be a model for other teams and other cities with the same goal of improving on a national level" (THEATHLETIC.com, 9/18).

Bears players and ownership are committing more than $500,000 to "local social justice programs, becoming the first team to maximize the NFL's new social justice initiative," according to Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com. Donation recipients with "ties to social justice and an emphasis on education, community/police relations and criminal justice reform are in the final stages of being selected and will be announced at a later date." Bears QBs Mitchell Trubisky and Chase Daniel, LB Sam Acho, TE Trey Burton and DT Akiem Hicks are "joining with four members of the front office" and Chair George McCaskey to "lead the initiative." McCaskey said, "I've taken Sam's lead on a bunch of these adventures, I guess you would call them, visiting a couple prisons, going on a ride-a-long with the Chicago Police Department and looking at some of the initiatives that are happening in the community. It's been a real education for me" (NFL.com, 9/18).

FIGHTING FOR A CAUSE: In Chicago, Phil Thompson notes former NFLer Matt Forte yesterday appealed for Cook County (Ill.) to "change how it establishes bail for people awaiting trial." Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of an order "requiring judges to set affordable bail amounts for defendants charged with nonviolent felonies." The Chicago Community Bond Fund's campaign "aligns with a national movement spearheaded in part" by the NFL Players Coalition, which "tapped Forte to represent the cause in Chicago through Forte's former Jets teammate Demario Davis." Forte said, "The Players Coalition, the great thing about it, is they have a lot of different fronts that they are fighting against. We can as players kind of pick and choose whatever your passion is about. I'm all about helping anyone who has been wronged or injustice of any type." Forte also "credited the Players Coalition for creating a culture and support network for tackling social issues." Forte: "We're just trying to motivate and inspire a lot more professional athletes who have this platform to get up and not sit back in our houses because we've been paid millions for playing a game, but to fight for others who need it" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/19).

Longtime SI writer Lee Jenkins is joining the Clippers as Exec Dir of Research & Identity, and the team believes his skills can "benefit the organization in ways that transcend title," according to Andrew Greif of the L.A. TIMES. Clippers President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank said, “It wasn’t that, ‘Hey, we need to find this position.’ No. The more interactions we had with Lee we were like, 'We have to go get this guy.'" The Clippers "believe Jenkins’ hiring could pay dividends." Frank said that Jenkins "probably will meet with draft prospects to better understand them." The Clippers also "envision Jenkins helping the organization in larger, and more undefined, ways." Frank said Jenkins has a "relentless curiosity about him, what makes people tick, what makes teams tick, why do teams win, why do they lose, organizational behaviors." Jenkins credited Clippers Owner Steve Ballmer for "what he called a willingness to think differently and create a job that is 'pretty outside the box'" (L.A. TIMES, 9/19). Frank said that Jenkins will "not be writing about the team for the Clippers website or acting as a scout." In N.Y., Kevin Draper notes Jenkins "will report" to Frank and Clippers GM Michael Winger and "will not have any employees under his purview" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/19). In DC, Ben Strauss notes Jenkins will not help "craft presentations for free agents -- the kinds of things a communications job might entail." Frank said, “If I wanted someone for a free agency presentation, we would hire an ad agency.” Instead, Jenkins will be "intimately involved with player evaluation -- both free agents and draft prospects" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/19).

NICE MATCH: ESPN's Rachel Nichols said Jenkins' role is one "we haven't seen before in the NBA." But the Clippers believe Jenkins will "tell stories, communicate with people, really study and know people and shape an internal and external narrative for their team." Jenkins is a “great observer of human nature … who is smart, who is intuitive and curious" (“The Jump,” ESPN2, 9/18). THE RINGER's Paolo Uggetti wrote it "makes sense that Jenkins, someone with relationships all around the league and a keen eye for finding information about players, would be valuable to the Clippers." The team is "heading into a season and offseason that could prove crucial for the franchise as the team tries to nab at least one of the big-name free agents on the horizon." Jenkins has "written about and interviewed nearly everybody who will be of interest to the Clippers next year" (THERINGER.com, 9/18). FS1's Marcellus Wiley said Jenkins is a "tremendous" and "unconventional hire from the richest owner in sports."  Someone who "writes exposés can expose the personality of this team. Not only can we tell that to this L.A. market, but sell that to this L.A. market" ("Speak for Yourself," FS1, 9/18).

Wade's announcement drove the average ticket listing price up 76% for his home finale
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Dwyane Wade on Sunday announced that he will return to the Heat for one final season, and for his final home game April 9, it is going to cost fans "a lot for any seat at AmericanAirlines Arena," according to Barry Jackson of the MIAMI HERALD. On the Heat's website Monday morning, the "lowest-priced individual tickets" to the game against the 76ers were "priced at $212.75 for an upper deck sideline seat and $215 for an upper-level seat behind the basket." By comparison, the Heat listed their lowest price for their "next-to-last regular season home game" against the Celtics on April 3 at $46 for an "upper deck seat behind the basket." The Heat website was "selling a courtside seat to that 76ers game for $4,597, much higher than the average regular season game." According to TickPick.com, as of Monday, the "average listing price" for the 76ers game was $779.76, up 76% from when Wade made his announcement on Sunday (MIAMI HERALD, 9/18).