December 08, 2015
It’s been a long time since there has been a public spanking as loud and embarrassing as the punishment handed out by Sixers owner Joshua Harris along with the NBA on Monday when together, they lowered the boom on general manager Sam Hinkie.
When it was over, Hinkie might as well have been wearing a diaper and sucking on a binky as Jerry Colangelo was announced as the new director of basketball operations. Colangelo, who is literally twice as old as Hinkie, 38, managed to easily take down the rickety building that was the Sixers, but it having trouble rebuilding it.
It is certainly no coincidence that all of this took place shortly after Hinkie went into hiding and refused to comment on the actions of his latest top pick, Jahlil Okafor, who has gone off the rails three times since arriving in Philadelphia, the latest involving a street fight outside of a Boston restaurant.
Okafor was suspended, but Hinkie refused any comment.
This came just a few months after it was made public that the Sixers were having trouble keeping Joel Embiid, another first-round pick, on the straight and narrow in terms of his rehab process from all of his foot problems.
Underneath all of this, the NBA has been seething about the Sixers inability to market their product. Despite their woes, the Sixers still are a franchise in a huge media market, and the club’s decision to hit a sub-basement level to launch a rebound has cost the league’s other clubs money in terms of shared revenue -- and attendance in their own arenas when the Sixers come to town.
Go back just a little way, and you might recall the flare-up when the Sixers announced that they would refuse to mention the name Wells Fargo (as in Wells Fargo Center) because the bank refused to be a partner in terms of advertising.
You can see now pretty clearly that the Sixers must have been pressured by the league to bring more money to the party. Bad as they are, the Sixers still attempted to market their product as if they were a desired “buy” in terms of suite sales and advertising revenue.
It did not work.
Thus, rather than only follow the few wins and multitude of losses, this smack down of Sam Hinkie is another case of “follow the money,” and the Sixers have not been bringing in enough money.
You might also have noticed that club CEO Scott O’Neil has been less obvious in all matters pertaining to the Sixers. The guess from this side of the page is that even O’Neil knew things were going south when Hinkie shut down all communications when Okafor had his problems.
It might be noted that O’Neil is also the CEO of the New Jersey Devils, who are also owned by Josh Harris. The Devils are a platinum sports standard compared to the Sixers, and they are planted in the long shadow of the New York Rangers. It is hardly a long leap of common sense to assume Harris was having trouble figuring out while one franchise was exceeding all expectations while the other continued to sink.
Even worse, no matter how well conceived a business plan, you cannot have a front man who hides and quivers when things go badly. The Sixers acted in a disgraceful manner when the whole Okafor mess unfolded and everybody had finally had enough.
Thus, with a likely push or shove from the NBA, Colangelo winds up in Philadelphia with a resume that includes a stint as a general manager at 29-years old, and then a legendary career that covers virtually the entire landscape of American sports from basketball to baseball to hockey.
You can expect Colangelo to give Hinkie his credit for starting some sort of building process, but on Monday the framed walls came tumbling down and he was left beneath the pile of losses.
The best case scenario here is that, bad as they are, the Sixers have the foundation in place with Okafor, Nerlens Noel, a potential star stashed in Europe and a fistful of top draft picks, and Colangelo will eventually be thanking Hinkie for starting the process.
But make no mistake about this, the man in charge of the process in now Colangelo, and Hinkie has been patted on the head and sent to the little kids’ table.