Michael Rubin

Atlantic Notes: Grimes, Reddish, J. Harris, Harden, Sixers

After Knicks guard Quentin Grimes aggravated his left foot injury during last Friday’s preseason finale, the team doesn’t intend to bring him back until he’s fully pain-free in that foot and not at risk of re-aggravating the injury, writes Ian Begley of SNY.tv.

“He’s got to be able to sustain it,” Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “So if he ramps it up and there’s anything there, it’s basically day-to-day. So just follow the protocol and plan that the trainers have laid out.”

With Grimes out of the rotation, Cam Reddish got an opportunity to play a bigger role in the Knicks’ opener on Wednesday and took full advantage, scoring 22 points off the bench, as Begley details in another SNY.tv. story. It was hugely important performance for Reddish, who is in a contract year and didn’t impress in the preseason.

As Begley observes, Reddish will presumably be given an opportunity to solidify a rotation spot for as long as Grimes remains out. If Reddish continues to play well and Grimes is cleared to play, it will be interesting to see whose rotation spot might be at risk, since the Knicks won’t want to sit Grimes, a Thibodeau favorite.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Nets sharpshooter Joe Harris will be available on Friday for the first time in nearly a year. Harris, who underwent two ankle surgeries last season and missed this season’s opener due to foot soreness, said he’ll play tonight after being listed as probable, tweets Brian Lewis of The New York Post. The veteran forward last played a regular season game on November 14, 2021.
  • After a “workaholic” summer in the gym, Sixers star James Harden feels rejuvenated, he told reporters on Thursday, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Hampered by a hamstring issue last season, Harden has looked like his old self after signing a new contract with Philadelphia this summer, averaging 33.0 PPG, 8.0 APG, and 8.0 RPG on 57.9% shooting in two games against tough defenses (Boston and Milwaukee).
  • As expected, Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin has sold his 10% stake in the Sixers, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, who says that 76 Devcorp chairman David Adelman bought a “substantial” share of that stake. Adelman’s real estate development company is working on a plan to build a new 76ers arena in downtown Philadelphia, Wojnarowski adds.

Michael Rubin Selling Stake In Sixers

Sixers minority owner Michael Rubin is selling his stake in Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, the company that owns the Sixers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, according to reports from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Shams Charania of The Athletic, and Yaron Weitzman of FOX Sports.

Rubin’s stake in the Sixers is just 10%, but he’s considered an influential figure in the team’s ownership group due to his relationships with the players, including Philadelphia stars Joel Embiid and James Harden.

Rubin is the CEO of the sports retail business Fanatics, which is branching out into sports gambling. That represents a conflict of interest for Rubin, who has no interest in buying a stake in another team as a result.

“When we first bought the Sixers, Fanatics was only in the merchandise business,” Rubin said to Weitzman. “Now we have the trading card business and the gambling business. By the end of the year, we’ll have individual contracts with thousands of players, and I’ll be taking bets on the Sixers. … No one came to me and said, ‘Hey, Michael, you need to sell.’ It was clear based on these businesses (that) we have no choice but to sell.”

The sale of Rubin’s equity in the Sixers is expected to close “imminently,” according to Charania.

Even though he’ll no longer be an official part of the 76ers’ ownership group, Rubin will continue to be “a presence courtside and a key partner in our collective commitment to be a force for good in Philadelphia,” team governor Josh Harris said in a statement.

“I’ll probably go to less games, but when there’s something going down that’s massive, I’ll stop what I’m doing to help,” Rubin told Weitzman. “That’s who I am. That’s what I like doing. I consider Josh and (co-owner David) Blitzer to be family. I consider Joel and James to be family. And I look at (president of basketball operations) Daryl (Morey) and (head coach) Doc (Rivers) the same way. I have a lot of investment in the group and will do whatever I can to help those guys in whatever small way I can.”

As Charania and Wojnarowski observe, Rubin could potentially exert more influence on behalf of the Sixers as a “super-fan” than he could in his minority ownership role, since he’s no longer prohibited from talking to players on other teams or entering into outside financial partnerships with 76ers players.

Rubin told Weitzman that he believes the Sixers are “really well-positioned” going forward, particularly since he expects Harden to be healthier and more comfortable in his first full season in Philadelphia.

Sixers/Harden Chatter Raises Tampering Suspicions

The possibility of the Sixers using Ben Simmons as a trade chip to try to acquire Nets star James Harden via sign-and-trade was rumored back in the fall, but the idea has gained more steam as of late, with multiple reporters suggesting this week that such a scenario appears increasingly viable.

With so many recent reports connecting Harden to the 76ers – who are seemingly becoming more and more comfortable with the idea of hanging onto Simmons until the offseason – there are growing suspicions around the NBA about what Philadelphia’s ownership and management groups might know about Harden’s intentions — and how they gathered that information.

In the most recent episode of his Posted Up podcast, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports laid out those concerns and explained what they might mean (hat tip to NBC Sports).

Michael Rubin – for those who don’t know, the Sixers’ co-owner – (is) very, very, very good friends with James Harden,” Haynes said. “And I’ve talked to a rival owner, talking to rival front-office executives who believe that there could be something, some talks going on now between both sides.

“And this is what I was told: Some front-office executives are prepared to – when the time comes, if a deal does look like it’s about to transpire where there could be some potential sign-and-trade in the offseason – they’re prepared to get the league involved on a potential collusion case, dating back to what they believe could be going on right now, as to why we’re probably hearing a lot of Philadelphia-James Harden talk.

“So, that’s something to keep an eye on. If it does get to the point where it looks like James Harden will be headed to Philly, I was told there will be complaints issued to the league on trying to investigate, to see if there was any collusion, any talks of recruitment going on right now, which is illegal and against the CBA.”

It’s not unusual for a team to recruit a star player months before he reaches free agency. Before Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City for Golden State, for example, there were whispers about the possibility throughout the preceding season.

However, those recruiting efforts were led by the Warriors’ stars rather than team management, and the NBA has never seemed interested in pursuing tampering changes against players. In this case, it’s Harden’s relationships with Rubin and Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey that have helped fuel leaguewide speculation.

Additionally, the league has made an effort to crack down on tampering in recent years, increasing and expanding the penalties that can be imposed on teams found to be guilty of violating the NBA’s rules. The league is much more likely to take a closer look at a potential case of tampering in 2022 than it would have been five or six years ago.

So far, there has been no indication that the Sixers have been in contact with Harden. But Haynes’ report suggests the franchise will face plenty of scrutiny if its oft-rumored pursuit of the former MVP is ultimately successful.

Sixers Rumors: Harden, Simmons, Trade Talks

After Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic reported on Monday that the Sixers‘ preference would be to retain Ben Simmons until the offseason in order to pursue James Harden, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer cited sources who said the same thing.

“At the end of the day, it’s Harden all the way,” one league source told Pompey. “They want Harden, whether they get him now (or) whether they get him on a forced sign-and-trade this summer.”

The idea of the Nets trading Harden during the season can probably be ruled out. But the former MVP will be eligible for free agency this summer, so he’ll have leverage at that point if he wants a change of scenery. Still, the Sixers wouldn’t have the cap space necessary to sign Harden outright, so Brooklyn would have to get on board with the idea of acquiring Simmons in a sign-and-trade.

Sources tell Pompey that the Nets are aware of Philadelphia’s plan to pursue Harden in the offseason and know that the star guard has good relationships with Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and co-owner Michael Rubin. But Harden has previously stated that he plans to remain in Brooklyn long-term — and even if he has a change of heart, it would likely take a lot of convincing for the Nets to send him to a division rival.

“If I’m the Nets, am I giving up James Harden until I know what Ben is going to be?” one source said to Pompey. “And am I giving him up to go 100 miles away? I’m going to have to see [Harden] several different times a season.”

For what it’s worth, Pompey says people close to the Sixers deny that the team is focused specifically on Harden, reiterating that Morey just wants a star player in return for Simmons — Bradley Beal and Damian Lillard are among the other potential targets who have been frequently mentioned. Harden may be atop Philadelphia’s wish list though, and sources who spoke to The Inquirer suggested Harden would welcome playing with center Joel Embiid.

Here’s more on the Sixers:

  • Some of Pompey’s sources believe potential trade partners are wary of seriously engaging in talks with the Sixers for fear of leaks. “Whenever teams inquire, it shows up in the media at some capacity within the next 24 hours,” a source told The Inquirer. “Everyone is wanting Daryl to come to them with hard proposals. No one wants to be the one to bring something in because they are afraid as soon as they do it, they’re going to be exposed.”
  • One source told Pompey that trade discussions with the Sixers are also challenging because Morey has a tendency to move the goal posts — you might think you’re getting close to making a deal, then Morey will come back and ask for more.
  • In a pair of stories for PhillyVoice.com, Kyle Neubeck examines the Harden rumors in an effort to determine how seriously to take them, and ranks hypothetical Simmons trade packages from most to least intriguing.
  • David Murphy of The Philadelphia Inquirer advocates for patience on the Simmons front, since trading the former No. 1 overall pick represents the Sixers’ best chance to get Embiid the help he needs to turn the team into a title contender. While taking the best offer at the deadline may help in the short term, it could backfire in the longer term by limiting the team’s ceiling, Murphy writes.

And-Ones: Rubin, LeBron, 2021 Draft, Roth

Michael Rubin, the founder of Fanatics and a current minority shareholder in the Sixers, is a good bet to take over majority control of an NBA team at some point, writes Jon Wertheim of SI.com. According to Wertheim, many people around the league believe it’s likely a matter of “when” – not “if” – Rubin will eventually own a franchise.

“Michael has all of the characteristics that we would look for in a team owner,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said. “He’s smart, innovative and passionate, wants to give back to his community and loves the game.”

If Rubin were to eventually buy a majority stake in another NBA franchise, he’d have to sell his shares of the 76ers.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • In other team ownership news, LeBron James expressed interest (via Twitter) in putting together an ownership group to purchase the Atlanta Dream of the WNBA. The team is currently co-owned by Kelly Loeffler, who lost a run-off election for a Georgia Senate seat on Tuesday. A number of WNBA players have called for Loeffler to no longer be involved with the Dream, but the league has said it won’t force her to sell.
  • The NBA updated its mental health guidelines on Wednesday, urging its teams to increase their commitments to providing mental health resources to players and staffers, reports Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. The changes come in the wake of an ESPN report which suggested that many staffers are feeling overwhelmed with increased responsibilities due to all the new COVID-19 protocols in place this season.
  • Jeremy Woo of SI.com takes a look at some 2021 NBA draft storylines to watch, and explains why he believes the No. 1 spot is Cade Cunningham‘s to lose.
  • Former NBA player and coach Scott Roth, who was the head coach of the G League’s Iowa Wolves from 2017-19, has been hired as the head coach of the Tasmania JackJumpers, the team announced today in a press release. The JackJumpers are an expansion team in Australia’s National Basketball League and will play their inaugural season in 2021/22.

Sixers Reverse Course On Reducing Employees’ Salaries

Sixers ownership has reversed course on a plan to reduce certain employees’ salaries, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

Full-time 76ers employees who earn at least $50K annually were informed on Monday that their salaries would be temporarily reduced by up to 20% as the NBA remains on hiatus, as Marc Stein of The New York Times details. Those employees were told that the new measures would apply to pay checks from April 15 through June 30, with health benefits and 401(k) plans unaffected, says Stein.

Sixers majority owner Josh Harris, whose Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment also owns the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, confirmed those plans in a statement today, but indicated they won’t be moving forward.

“Our commitment has been to do our best to keep all of our employees working through this very difficult situation. As part of an effort to do that we asked salaried employees to take a temporary 20% pay cut while preserving everyone’s full benefits — and keeping our 1,500 hourly workers paid throughout the regular season,” Harris said. “After listening to our staff and players, it’s clear that was the wrong decision. We have reversed it and will be paying these employees their full salaries.”

The measures, which have now been nixed, wouldn’t have affected any players. They also wouldn’t have applied to employees on contracts, including members of the coaching staff or certain front office executives, Stein notes. Only “at-will” employees would have been required to accept the salary reductions, Wojnarowski adds (via Twitter).

However, according to Stein, some additional members of the organization had been asked to participate in the rollbacks as well — Sixers GM Elton Brand was among those who had agreed to take a temporary pay cut. Wojnarowski tweets that coaches and executives whose salaries couldn’t be unilaterally cut were initially given until Thursday to agree to a salary reduction of 20%. Per Woj, many were reluctant to give back that money, particularly since their employment situations beyond this summer are uncertain.

As Wojnarowski tweets, other team owners were keeping an eye on the situation in Philadelphia. Those owners were weighing their own desire to save money against the potential PR backlash that such a move would generate. Presumably, based on the negative PR the 76ers faced and the quick reversal that followed, no other teams will immediately enact similar plans.

Sixers part-owner Michael Rubin actually contributed to that PR backlash that helped push the club to change its plans — Shams Charania of Stadium (video link) reports that Rubin wasn’t believed to be part of the decision to reduce employees’ salaries and was said to be “upset” and “outraged” by it.

Meanwhile, before the 76ers’ change of heart, star center Joel Embiid announced that he’s pledging $500K to COVID-19 medical relief efforts in the community and that he was committed to helping Sixers employees who would suffer financial hardship in light of the team’s salary reductions (Twitter link via Ramona Shelburne of ESPN). With the Sixers no longer planning to reduce employees’ salary, Embiid’s financial commitment beyond that $500K for coronavirus purposes no longer appears necessary.