The NBA, and the owners within the league, weren’t too thrilled with how the Philadelphia 76ers were operating their organization. Philly’s honest attempt at tanking was merely too much to swallow. Their concerns weren’t altruistic, however. It had more to do with diminishing returns on their investments when the Sixers came to town.
Basically, the albatross that is Philadelphia’s roster meant that whatever team they went to play on the road would see smaller amounts of tickets sold. Sam Hinkie’s process was negatively altering others’ bank accounts. And, really, hell has no scorn like taking some loot off the wealthy.
Because of all of that, the NBA set a weird precedent by essentially forcing Hinkie and crew to take on Jerry Colangelo, at least that’s how ESPN’s Brian Windhorst portrayed the move. (There are conflicting reports on how it all came together.) Since the lauded Managing Director of United States Basketball came into the fold, albeit a short period of time transpiring, nothing has changed drastically. The only obvious difference between the pre-Colangelo Sixers and the ones trotting about the hardwood now is the addition of Mike D’Antoni to the bench as an assistant head coach.
These are moves to be done for several reasons. Mostly, though, it’s to help remove the stigma which has been Philly’s obvious attempts at purposely losing basketball games. The NBA, and its owners, are hoping that the addition of each mostly-respected basketball person will help increase the idea in fans that the Sixers will be different moving forward. In return, I guess, more folks will go to more games.
Jerry Colangelo is 76 years old. He hasn’t run an NBA organization since he sold off his shares of the Phoenix Suns in 2004. While he rightfully deserves the praise he gets for running USA hoops, that’s an entirely different beast than the NBA. Our World Cup and Olympic teams have a deep, somewhat forced-into competing talent pool to pull from. The NBA provides no such luxury. It’s only through free agency, trades and drafting that teams can get better.
Moreover, the inclusion of Colangelo doesn’t automatically mean success. Nor does it mean they’re trying “harder” now. It merely means they’ve added a good basketball mind to their current stable of front-office people. While the move can certainly help, and by no mean does it hurt, it feels to have the same inevitable non-impact as it would be if the WWE decided to have Brutas The Barber Beefcake headline a Wrestlemania. Both guys are beyond their primes, haven’t been asked to do either specific thing in a long time, and the games have changed. The nostalgia of it all might initially deter warranted questions, but at the end of the day it’s unlikely to have a large, long-term positive alteration as to how the products will or would be moving forward.
Again, to be clear: The move isn’t bad. It doesn’t hurt getting more talent, even if the talent is only the thoughts jogging around inside some guy’s cranium, but the Sixers are still some time from becoming decent enough to not be considered wretched. Colangelo is 76 — the long haul running franchises portion of his career is over. While he might very well help nudge Philadelphia in the right direction, not only won’t he likely be there to see it through, but whatever moves he feels should be made will have to be run through Hinkie first. There’s a chance that Colangelo’s addition to the franchise is merely for show.
Circling back a bit; There’s actually little modern proof, outside a completely not-direct correlation to international hoops, that Colangelo still has it. Using the WWE analogies yet again, it’d be like Vince McMahon reanimating the corpse of Andre the Giant and expecting him to put on five-star matches. As everything has changed around the game of basketball, as it has in wrestling, whatever talents and abilities these guys had which made them special may no longer apply. That’s even if the “it-factor” is still a thing they exhibit.
As far as Mike D’Antoni is concerned, well, this move is puzzling to me. Again, another new member of the organization who can only help and not hurt, but they recently gave Brett Brown an extension. We’re in the middle of the season, too. There’s no way of implementing a new offensive system heading into the New Year. While D’Antoni might be able to help with the current roster’s development, the last we saw of him was with a slew of failures with better talent in his wake.
This, like Colangelo, feels like a name-brand hiring. It’s only news because D’Antoni was successful in Phoenix, alongside the Sixers’ new Chairman of Basketball Operations, and we’re intended to apparently correlate D’Antoni’s presence as some sort of true and honest step in the right direction. What seems to be failed to realize, though, is that all of the former head coach’s strengths are things that seem system based. If it isn’t his system, what exactly is the point?
There’s certainly good news in his hiring, though. Someone like Nerlens Noel, who’s offensively limited, can possibly strive in an offensive system closer to resembling the old Suns, Amar’e/Nash structure than the abomination Philly hurls out on game night. That sort of thing, a brand new system being put into place, seems more like an offseason thing than it does as the team fails to score buckets on the regular in the right now.
Even with D’Antoni’s loyalties to Colangelo, and vice-a-versa, being well known, the end game for the assistant isn’t to be an assistant for the Sixers forever. He’s likely gone when — if not before — Colangelo is gone. Couple that with Brown’s new extension, D’Antoni might only be there to bide his time until another organization comes calling. That’s unless Philadelphia ownership blows up the entire thing in the offseason — eating tons of money in the process.
The time each plans to spend with the organization here is key. While the Sixers are reportedly going to add Dario Saric and more potential lottery picks next season, it’s not as if they’re going to be 30 wins better next year. Maybe Colangelo can call on favors owed, but the idea of him in the front office meaning that free agents are suddenly going to wind up playing for them seems silly to me.
No matter. Not really. Whatever my beliefs are on the matter are of no consequence. Time will pass and the luxury of hindsight will be afforded to us all to judge these maneuvers better down the road. I’m not exactly saying these moves are wrong, either. Simply asking if their sole purpose in the franchise is that of window dressing and not true-to-life saviors.
My guess is the former. It could also be that Philly is too far removed from being decent that they can’t be saved in the time allotted to each guy. Regardless, #TrustTheProcess. Because, honestly, I still do.
Merry Christmas, NBA owners. Santa put some dangerous precedents in your stockings. Enjoy before it happens to you.