The Philadelphia 76ers just hired Jerry Colangelo to help with their ambitious rebuilding plan, so Today’s Fastbreak Managing Editor Jason Patt got together with three “Process” believers to discuss the move.
Jason: The Sixers dropped a bombshell by hiring longtime basketball exec and Team USA chairman Jerry Colangelo to be a big part of the front office. But before we dive into that, what was your initial reaction when you heard about the press conference set to take place Monday afternoon? I figured it was going to be something about Jahlil Okafor.
Bryan Toporek: I was initially nervous. The lack of leaks terrified me. Hoped it was only about Okafor (a longer suspension, perhaps?), but secretly worried either Sam Hinkie was getting fired or Brett Brown had had enough of the rebuild and decided to step down.
Sean Kennedy: I also assumed it was something about Okafor, a belated response about how the team was still behind him and he was a good kid in spite of the recent incidents. It would have seemed a bit out of place given the media storm had died down already, but with his returning from suspension Monday night, the timing could have made sense.
Speculation in the Sixers Twitter community was crazy all day. My favorite theory was something involving a definitive position in the organization for Allen Iverson. AI was in the area and had done a short Q&A with the team’s in-arena host, Christian Crosby, that had posted during the day. As it turned out, he was just at the game and taking live questions from fans via Sixers Twitter during it.
But the actual reason for the press conference was crazier than anything people speculated leading up to it.
Jeff Berest: When I heard the press conference was announced I just immediately assumed the worst of the situation. I was trying to think if it were actually possible they could relocate the franchise or something completely absurd like that.
In my head I didn’t believe that Josh Harris was going to announce that Sam Hinkie or Brett Brown were going to leave the team. They’re too deep into the process to make radical changes like that, especially when we’re on the precipice of a huge offseason that’s approaching.
It was very surprising that nothing was leaked about this Colangelo hire beforehand; very impressive job by the Sixers PR department. I guess I’ll lean with you Jason; I kind of thought in some way this had to be Okafor-related, and someone from the organization other than Brett Brown needed to comment on the situation.
Jason: To the point about no leaks…definitely stunning Woj didn’t have this story before it happened. Some other stuff about the situation quickly came out after (Brown’s possible extension, Silver’s role in the whole thing), but this was kept pretty well under wraps.
Sean: The conspiracy theorist in me thinks a few people knew things but were given inside info under the stipulation that they wait until after the press conference to release it. I don’t see how Woj could gather the necessary information, confirm it and file a story all while the press conference was basically still going on. Unless he is a warlock hell-bent on gathering all NBA-related news at any cost, which I guess shouldn’t be ruled out.
Also, the fact that Silver was involved and they were broadcasting the press conference on NBA TV also leads me to believe there were others out there waiting for everything to come out first.
Jason: Good points. So now to the meat of this. What’s your biggest takeaway from this move? Will #TheProcess change? Is Hinkie in trouble?
Sean: I think they might bring in one veteran and with Tony Wroten already back, Kendall Marshall returning Thursday and Carl Landry in the final stages of his rehab, one-third of the roster will look completely different. The casual bystander will then point to the “Colangelo effect” when the Sixers revert to being a run-of-the-mill bad team rather than historically awful.
Will this change anything big picture? I doubt it. Everything (and Hinkie’s future) still boils dowm to the 2016 draft, and that was true with or without Colangelo. If the Sixers grab Ben Simmons plus somebody like Ingram with the Lakers pick, Hinkie looks like a genius. If LA lands in the top three and the Sixers drop a few spots, Hinkie is probably gone.
So no, I think “The Process” will remain on course. I reserve the right to change my mind if the team trades for Channing Frye or openly discusses targeting Luol Deng in free agency.
Jeff: I think this is one giant public relations move by the Sixers, that was made for a bevy of reasons. I don’t believe Colangelo was hired to be advise Sam Hinkie and act as a soundboard for him about free agents/trades/personnel moves etc. I think the main reason Colangelo was hired was to mend relationships with other teams and agents that don’t like what the Sixers are doing. It’s obvious that Hinkie is a very shrewd individual and has rubbed a multitude of people the wrong way. Colangelo is here to boost the image of the Sixers and to make it look to other teams and executives around the league that the Sixers are “trying” and may alter their current plan.
There’s no other way this computes to me. This organization has gone too far and done too many unpopular things to all of a sudden kowtow to the critics, when they’re about to see the culmination of all of their sacrifice and savvy dealings come this summer. I think Colangelo will mostly act as a figurehead and speak to the media, and like I said help Hinkie with other agents and executives. But by no means do I believe Hinkie will ultimately be taking orders from Colangelo and doing his bidding. If the Sixers were giving up on Hinkie and The Process, why would they hire a 76-year-old guy who lives full-time in Phoenix. They would either fire Hinkie or hire a different well-traveled and respected executive to help him out.
I still believe this is a good move by the Sixers, but I don’t think it’s an indictment of The Process. Obviously they’re not as far along as they’d like to be, but bringing in Colangelo can’t automatically progress them unless they take a bunch of shortcuts and make dumb trades to bring in a ton of mediocre talent. I do believe the story that Adam Silver had a hand in bringing Colangelo to the Sixers, but by no means did he force the team to hire him. That’s ridiculous. The Sixers clearly don’t care about their image. Why all of a sudden would they just hire a new executive just because the commissioner told them to and because too many teams are complaining about them?
Overall, it was a good day for the Sixers, and to get another front-office guy with that much experience and success under his belt is a coup for them. But I don’t think this signals the end for Hinkie; the ownership is committed to him for at least another year. Blowing it up now after all the work Hinkie has put in would be a disaster. The Sixers are in the business of collecting assets, and hiring Colangelo fits into that narrative.
Sean: Agree with everything Jeff said about Colangelo mending relationships with agents and other executives. That’s easily the number one reason I’m excited about his arrival as the Sixers finally pivot away from the draft and towards free agency next summer.
I’d like to clarify that I don’t think if Hinkie was to be pushed out the door, it would be Jerry Colangelo taking over. Obviously he isn’t going to be running the team via Skype on his iPad from Arizona. But I do think he would be heavily involved in the next GM hire, maybe his son Bryan as one of the national reports suggested was the thinking among league executives.
Jason: I agree with you guys there. Colangelo’s experience and relationships, especially with USA Basketball, should only help. I don’t think he’ll be some type of magician or anything with getting big free agents to Philly, but he can’t hurt.
Also, while I can see why people would think Hinkie’s in trouble, I definitely don’t think he’s in imminent danger of losing his job. As mentioned, the Sixers are in position to take a big step forward next offseason, so bailing on Hinkie now in advance of that would be really bizarre to me.
Bryan: I can’t see this being good news for Hinkie, but I also don’t think it radically changes anything about The Process between now and the 2016 draft. As Sean said, maybe they bring in an additional veteran between now and the trade deadline, but there’s no quick-fix move that will transform this team into a 35-win club overnight. I expect Colangelo’s impact this year to be mostly behind the scenes, repairing the damage Hinkie has seemingly done with agents, to set the Sixers up for a make-or-break 2016 offseason.
At this point, ownership has to know the 2016 draft will go a long way toward determining how successful this rebuild will be. Finishing with a worse record than the Lakers both increases the Sixers’ odds of getting a higher pick and increases the chances of the Lakers’ top three protected pick conveying. Getting two top five picks — say, Ben Simmons and Jamal Murray or Kris Dunn — would go a long way toward accelerating this rebuild, which Josh Harris spoke repeatedly about during the Colangelo presser Monday. Missing out on that Lakers pick because of a few meaningless late-season wins would be catastrophic.
I agree with Jeff in thinking that Colangelo isn’t ultimately going to overthrow Hinkie, but I also don’t expect him to serve exclusively as a figurehead. Harris and Colangelo both made it clear that while Hinkie still has final say, he’ll be collaborating with both of them extensively before making any radical decisions. As long as the division of power remains clear, this move should only help the team move into its next phase of the rebuild.
If Colangelo begins attempting to go over Hinkie’s head, however, it could become a major issue. One of the biggest selling points of the rebuild to date is how everyone, from Brett Brown to ownership, has been on board with the overall theory. (Brown hasn’t agreed with every move Hinkie made, but he’s still committed to a draft-centric, player-development model.) If that front-office stability goes out the window, it could jeopardize the long-term upside of the rebuild.
Sixers fans should have an eyebrow raised here, admittedly, but shouldn’t necessarily sound the alarm just yet. As long as ownership doesn’t begin forcing Hinkie and Colangelo to make panic moves, The Process is still on track. It just may have taken a minor detour.
Jeff: After reading some of the takes on the situation, it’s not a coincidence that the writers who are super-critical of the Sixers and The Process are claiming that Colangelo is acting as some sort of savior and is forced to clean up Hinkie’s mess. It couldn’t be further from the truth, but this gives them another angle on the story.
But these will also be the people who claim if/when the Sixers get good it will be because they hired Colangelo. Like if getting the #1 pick this year, conveying the Lakers pick and Joel Embiid miraculously getting healthy could be the result of hiring Jerry Colangelo. Hiring Colangelo is not some type of miracle cure or panacea for the Sixers, but it can only help them in their future endeavors by having someone of his stature and gravitas behind the scenes.
Jason: These are all reasonable ways to look at it. If anything, Hinkie is on notice, and the 2016 offseason is where most of the chips will be pushed to the center of the table.
Now, what do you guys make of this talk that Adam Silver and the NBA stepped in and kind of initiated this? Does that bother you?
Jeff: It doesn’t bother me at all unless somehow he forcibly made the Sixers hire Colangelo, which I don’t believe to be the truth. I think Silver recommended Colangelo to the Sixers, and the Sixers ownership bought into this idea of bringing him on. Commissioners act on behalf of all the teams, and if the majority of owners constantly complain about the Sixers “tanking” and that’s hurting the league’s financial bottom line, he has to try and do something to quell this issue amongst the owners.
Bryan: Theoretically, yeah, Silver’s alleged intervention rubs me the wrong way. Opposing owners shouldn’t be able to complain enough to force a franchise to change its direction (see: the Lakers’ vetoed CP3 trade). It seems to set a very negative precedent moving forward.
In this particular case, though, it strikes me as an instance where those owners may regret meddling in the Sixers’ business. Adding a well-respected executive like Colangelo may help the Sixers poach a free-agent target over the coming years that they wouldn’t have otherwise lured with just Hinkie. Are owners going to whine to Silver when that happens, too?
Sean: Jeff, you must not have read the chapter in Colangelo’s How You Play The Game devoted to alternative healing methods for fractured navicular bones. Don’t be surprised if a strong cinnamon odor comes from the Sixers’ locker room from here on out.
I don’t mind, because the more I read about the Silver situation, it seems like the commissioner simply approached Harris about the idea. Harris was on board because he felt bringing an experienced and well-regarded figure like Colangelo could only help the team going forward. I happen to agree with him.
Jason: It did strike me as a bit bizarre, but it is what it is. It would be funny if this came back to bite the other teams, as Bryan said.
Overall, it seems like the reaction is mostly positive here, and I’d tend to agree as well, at least for now. I can’t imagine a huge alteration in The Process now, and it’s all coming to a head anyway next summer. If anything, this at least makes the situation more intriguing.
Now, obviously the play on the court stinks, and the Okafor off-the-court stuff is somewhat troublesome. How worried are you about Okafor and the general development of him and Nerlens Noel?
Jeff: I discussed the Okafor off-the-court stuff at length and hit on it in my last article for the site. As for on-the-court stuff, it’s pretty worrisome right now. I usually tend not to overreact and I’d probably say something like “it’s only been 22 games, the jury is out on if Okafor and Noel can play together,” but if I’m keeping it 100 with y’all (and you guys probably agree), it just isn’t going to work out between them starting in the frontcourt together.
The saving grace is if “real PG” Kendall Marshall comes back and somehow resurrects this duo, but it doesn’t seem likely. The worrisome part isn’t that they can’t play together, but it’s the fact that this probably means another big trade might be coming and one of these guys could be shipped off and even more heat will be thrown down upon the franchise.
It’s been disappointing that Noel has regressed some in his second year back from injury,; he started off the season great and has been pretty awful since then. But many have pointed to the fact that there might be a lingering or significant injury that he’s playing through. He’s too good to keep playing at this sub-par level, so I’m not TOO worried about him, but there’s a level of concern.
As for Okafor, his offense has looked pretty great and there’s no doubting that. But besides his point totals, his numbers aren’t that impressive, and this has to do with his high usage rate and the attention he garners from opponents. He’s the #1 option on a terrible team and he forces a lot of shots. Once they put better players around him that side of the ball will only continue to get better. His defense is concerning, but I feel like we all knew what we were getting with him. He has a lot of time before his defense will actually be counted on and will become a major deciding factor in games.
Simply put, I just have a hard time passing stiff judgment on these guys because of the makeup of the team, but there’s definitely some concern.
Bryan: I’ve been on record as concerned with the Okafor-Noel fit since the day after the draft, and nothing from these first 22 games has changed my mind. Until Noel develops a reliable jump shot, he’s incapable of playing the 4 in today’s small-ball-oriented NBA, and Okafor is too slow-footed on defense to do anything but guard the post. Put him in a pick-and-roll and he’s toast.
I think Jeff’s right in that the Sixers will ultimately have to trade one of the two, and perhaps that will be Colangelo’s first big contribution to the franchise (helping decide which of the two should be the “keeper” and which should go). Based on where they are on their respective contracts, I’d think Okafor would have more trade appeal prior to the recent spate of off-court incidents, but Noel likely is the most tradable of the two now. I just have more faith in a Noel-Embiid-Saric frontcourt working out than I do Okafor-Embiid-Saric.
Sean: If trust in The Process was really a religious movement, then “He’s 19 years old” would be my version of “Hare Krishna” and what I chanted to myself while enduring another fourth quarter collapse or another TMZ video.
Okafor is getting into drunken fights in the street. He’s 19 years old.
He’s getting pushed off the block by bigger, stronger defenders. He’s 19 years old.
Defenders are sagging five feet off him because he shows no inclination to take a mid-range jumper. He’s 19 years old.
Okafor looks completing lost trying to navigate pick-and-roll defense. He’s 19 years old.
But when the incense has burned away and I take a hard look into my heart, yes, I’m worried.
Jeff and Bryan have already touched on all of my concerns. We need to see the Okafor/Noel pairing with an actual point guard before making too rash a judgment, but early returns are indeed troubling. I’ve always felt having them together was suboptimal because it takes Noel away from his strengths and I feel he’s a better piece for the modern NBA than Okafor anyway. If LA wanted to do that hypothetical D’Angelo Russell for Jahlil Okafor reverse swap, I’d be on board in a second.
Bryan: Count me in on a theoretical Russell-for-Okafor swap, too. It’s not D’Angelo’s fault he’s playing for the worst coach in the NBA.
Jeff: Make that three of us. Maybe the newly dubbed “franchise savior” Jerry Colangelo can get to work on that for us.
Jason: Ha, I was actually going to ask about a possible Okafor-for-Russell swap, and you guys beat me to it. Well done.
Sean: So I have a question. Given that it seems inevitable Coangelo will bring in a veteran fairly soon, anyone come to mind as a good proposition without upsetting The Process?
Bryan: If Ty Lawson didn’t have so many off-court issues, I’d say he would be a logical target. He’s still relatively young (28), the Rockets are reportedly gauging trade interest on him and his contact is non-guaranteed for 2016-17, so the Sixers could cut bait on him if things went south. Given Jah’s recent antics, though, I can’t imagine trading for a guy with character concerns like Lawson.
In general, a veteran PG or 2-guard would be the ideal target. They should absolutely not trade for a SF, PF or C, as it’s only going to take away minutes from Jah, Nerlens, RoCo and Jerami Grant, all of whom need as much playing time as possible as to determine whether they’re long-term pieces of the puzzle. Kevin Martin, perhaps, to add some additional floor spacing (provided Stauskas doesn’t find his stroke soon)? Or Jamal Crawford, maybe? I wouldn’t be excited trading anything of value — even the MIA or OKC first-round picks — for any of those guys, though.
Sean: Oh man, please no on Jamal Crawford. I couldn’t handle watching his no defense, hero-ball offense on the Sixers.
I wouldn’t mind Kevin Martin. Like you said, he could be a good floor-spacing addition to help evaluate the Okafor-Noel pairing. Martin has been slumping and minutes have taken a huge hit. He’s also owed about $7M again next year and Minnesota wants to give Shabazz Muhammad more playing time, so maybe the Wolves would part with him for a protected second-round pick aka the Hinkie special.
Jason: I could dig Kevin Martin. The Sixers need shooting/offense in the worst way, and he can also create some for himself. That could help in crunch time, where the Sixers are a complete and utter abomination. And really, he could be a nice bench piece next year when the team theoretically takes a step forward.
Oh, and absolutely NO on Jamal Crawford. He still has his moments, but he’s pretty bad.
Jeff: I’m against trading for a veteran, just for the sake of trading for a veteran. If they want to survey the free-agent pool and pluck one or two guys who will take an NBA paycheck over sitting on their couch at home, that’s fine with me. I know this is unpopular, but I’d still like to see our young guys get as many minutes as possible and just let them fail on the court and work stuff out.
I do like the idea of getting Kevin Martin for a future protected second-round pick, but honestly how much is Kevin Martin going to like that scenario? I don’t think he’s the kind of guy to buy in to what the Sixers are doing with him, knowing he’s out the door as soon as possible. He probably has a couple more seasons of being a semi-capable scorer, and would benefit from being on a contending team and not languishing away his remaining years losing 60+ games on the Sixers. It’d be better to sign one or two vets who are going to know their role; play a few minutes sparingly and be mentors to the young guys.
Jason: Too bad the Sixers have so many big men, otherwise they could sign Carlos Boozer and up the volume on the team.
Anyway, I’m sure we’re all really curious to see how things play out from here. Stay tuned for the next chapter in the saga known as The Process.