"It's been really insane."
Those were the first words Sixers managing partner Josh Harris used Wednesday to describe the team's offseason. It's hard to disagree with him.
Speaking Wednesday with NBC Sports Philadelphia's Amy Fadool, Harris discussed why he's encouraged by the team's getting a meeting with LeBron James' representatives, what he's looking for in his next general manager, and more.
On the significance of the Sixers being the only team James' representatives met with besides the Lakers
"It's a big deal. LeBron obviously carries a lot of weight and certainly people were pretty focused on the Sixers anyway and the strength of our program, but certainly it underscores that. Other potential free agents, trade partners, they notice. Obviously re-signing JJ [Redick] and Amir [Johnson] and adding Wilson [Chandler] and [Nemanja] Bjelica allowed us to strengthen our team. So I think we're going to get better next year, certainly in the regular season and then advance further in the playoffs. We're one of the three teams in the East - Toronto, Boston and us, certainly with LeBron going to the West. We're going to be here for a long time and we're focused on winning a championship for the city, like we've been saying."
While James didn't actually personally talk with the Sixers, you can understand why Harris would tout the meeting as a success for the organization despite James signing with the Lakers. His comment about the Sixers' being "one of the three teams in the East" is also interesting - the Bucks, Pacers and Wizards might have something to say about that. But there's no denying that, with James in Los Angeles, the Sixers have a legitimate chance at an Eastern Conference title.
On the experience of being in a meeting for a high-profile free agent like James
"It was great, it was exciting. We're focused on it going forward; next year we have a lot of cap space. Philly is a great free-agent destination right now with our two young stars, Ben [Simmons] and Joel [Embiid], Markelle [Fultz] hopefully our third star - we'll see - Dario [Saric], [Robert] Covington, JJ Redick and the culture that Brett Brown's built, the new gym in Camden, Philly is a great city. And people are focused on where we are. There's a bunch of free agents next year. Clearly we have the trade market we're working on. I think that we're going to have a lot of opportunities and keep focusing on how to make our team better."
Harris is correct that there will be plenty of free agents on the market next year, including Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler and Kevin Love. And with the contracts of Redick, Johnson, Chandler and Blejica all up after this season, the Sixers will have plenty of cap space next offseason as things stand. Of course, as Harris says, their current focus is on "the trade market" and the big name that reportedly remains available, Kawhi Leonard.
On the search for the Sixers' next general manager
"We're just getting focused on it now, given everything with free agency and the draft, and also the other GMs are in the same place. We're looking for the right person. One of the things that [former president of basketball operations] Bryan Colangelo did really well was, we built a great staff, whether it be [vice president of basketball operations and chief of staff] Ned Cohen or [vice president of analytics and strategy] Alex Rucker or [vice president of player personnel] Marc Eversley or [Delaware Blue Coats general manger] Elton Brand, we have a lot of great people. It's very consensus-oriented, there's a lot of people in the dialogue, and we want to make sure we find the right fit for that. It's not going to be easy. My guess is it's going to take awhile. And we're obviously focused on doing it as quickly as possible, but at the same time I don't want to set unrealistic expectations - it could take a little while. So we're just starting that."
Harris clearly hasn't had a great sense of urgency in finding a new general manager, and it continues to sound like he isn't in a hurry. The timing of the Colangelo scandal couldn't have been much worse for the Sixers. Rushing to hire someone before the start of the draft or free agency would probably not have been a smart move, especially given how much Harris and the Sixers value the team element of front-office decision-making.
Monday, The Inquirer's Keith Pompey reported that Harris would prefer to hire someone with previous GM experience. In those comments, Harris also used the phrase "consensus-oriented," as he did Wednesday, so it appears that finding a candidate who can work well as part of a group is definitely a priority.
But the bottom line is, as trade talks with the Spurs reportedly continue for Leonard, Brett Brown is still the man in charge.