Heading into their most important offseason since Allen Iverson’s heyday, the Philadelphia 76ers received a rude awakening Tuesday night courtesy of The Ringer’s Ben Detrick.
Detrick published an extensive report detailing team president Bryan Colangelo’s alleged use of secret Twitter accounts to bash Philadelphia’s players, coaching staff and executives around the league, including his Sixers predecessor, Sam Hinkie. Colangelo denied the use of all but one of those accounts in a statement issued to Detrick, and he told Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports that he had “no knowledge of ‘motives or origin’ regarding the other accounts.”
At first, it didn’t appear as though star Sixers center Joel Embiid believed Colangelo’s denial.
— Joel Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) May 30, 2018
Embiid later told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that Colangelo called him “to deny the story,” adding, “Gotta believe him until proven otherwise.” He also backed away from his initial response later in the night.
Fun night on Twitter lmao.. All jokes asides I don’t believe the story. That would just be insane
— Joel Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) May 30, 2018
The Sixers now find themselves in the unenviable position of having to get to the bottom of this Colangelo Twitter drama posthaste. What they discover will shape the course of their ensuing offseason.
If Colangelo somehow proves he wasn’t behind the multiple burner accounts—Wojnarowski explained why that may be difficult—he still may have to work to regain the trust of the locker room and coaching staff. In terms of maintaining organizational stability, that’s the Sixers’ best-case scenario.
If the Sixers discover Detrick’s reporting to be accurate, however, they’ll have little choice but to fire Colangelo. They’ll otherwise risk an insurrection from Embiid, Markelle Fultz and the other players and team officials who Colangelo anonymously trashed.
Further complicating matters: The Sixers, who are fresh off a 52-win season and a second-round playoff exit, have the ability to significantly improve their roster this summer. They’re armed with two first-round draft picks (including No. 10 overall), four second-rounders and north of $25 million in salary-cap space if they renounce the rights to all of their free agents.
As of Wednesday, we’re 22 days away from the NBA draft and just over a month away from the beginning of free agency. Even if the Sixers canned Colangelo immediately, they wouldn’t have much time to conduct an extensive search for a new general manager. There’s no indication Colangelo will go quietly into the night, either, which puts the team in an enormously difficult spot at the moment.
If the Sixers do part ways with Colangelo, he may decide to go out in a blaze of glory, leaking all sorts of damaging intel about the organization to reporters. If they retain him, they’ll have to quickly identify the person responsible for those Twitter accounts, as a number of them relayed behind-the-scenes information that isn’t in the public domain, as Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice noted.
Prior to this eruption of front office drama, Philadelphia could have presented a compelling case to any free agent this summer. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid both appear to be budding franchise cornerstones, while Robert Covington, Dario Saric and TJ McConnell round out a talented supporting cast. If 2017 No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz puts his mysterious shoulder injury behind him and hits the ground running next season, he’ll be the icing on the cake for a Sixers team with one of the NBA’s best young cores.
While Philadelphia currently doesn’t project to have enough salary-cap space to sign a max free agent such as LeBron James or Paul George, it can get there with a few minor moves. Beyond finding a team willing to accept Jerryd Bayless’ contract without sending any salary back in return, the Sixers would either have to decline their $1.6 million team option on Richaun Holmes while stashing their No. 26 pick overseas, or they could package one or two of their young prospects (Holmes, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Furkan Korkmaz, Justin Anderson) with Bayless’ deal.
In theory, Colangelo has already much of the done the legwork on those prospective scenarios. If he’s dismissed, the Sixers’ new general manager will have to start from square one with limited time to find a workable solution.
The idea of James joining the Sixers isn’t necessarily a pipe dream, either. In March, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor reported James “currently has only four teams on his list” of potential free-agent destinations: the Sixers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets, and Los Angeles Lakers. On Tuesday morning, OddsShark relayed updated odds (via Bet Online) for James’ free-agent landing spot this summer, and Philadelphia led the way.
Updated odds on what team LeBron will be on next season (@betonline_ag):
Clippers +2500 pic.twitter.com/M0Z5BlpIHB
— OddsShark (@OddsShark) May 29, 2018
After the Herculean effort he’s had to exert to drag this withered Cavaliers roster to the NBA Finals for the fourth straight year, James figures to want more help from his teammates beginning next season. A Philadelphia team with two of the NBA’s brightest young stars may be just what the doctor ordered.
The Sixers also squared away their coaching situation earlier Tuesday evening, as they reached an agreement with head coach Brett Brown on a three-year extension that runs through the 2021-22 season, according to Wojnarowski. Brown was otherwise heading into the final year of his contract, which could have sent a negative message to prospective free-agent targets.
No matter how bright the Sixers’ future looks with Simmons, Embiid, and Brown all in the fold long term, the Colangelo drama will cast a cloud over their immediate outlook until it’s resolved one way or another. Heading into a pivotal offseason, it’s imperative for them to get to the bottom of this mess expediently.