Negative press surrounding the 76ers has slowed to a crawl since Ish Smith returned in late December, thanks to the team's marked improvement on individual and collective levels. But just when things are starting to look up, salt is dumped into old draft wounds.
In a story by Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski, the intrepid reporter dives deeper into the factors that pushed Knicks rookie sensation Kristaps Porzingis toward New York. Sam Hinkie's staff not getting an individual meeting/workout with Porzingis isn't new information, but the details here are:
Whatever happened, Miller didn't make it easy for Philadelphia to draft Porzingis at No. 3. The Sixers wouldn't be afforded Porzingis' physical, nor get a private workout, nor even a face-to-face meeting. After most of the pro day executives cleared out of the gym in Vegas in mid-June, 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie lingered to meet with Miller. Hinkie stopped him in the lobby area and asked Miller about a chance to sit down and visit with Porzingis.
"You said that I would get a meeting with him here," Hinkie told Miller.
"I said, 'I'd try,' and it's not going to work out, Sam," Miller responded.
An awkward silence lingered, the GM and agent, standing and staring. The Porzingis camp wanted no part of the Sixers' situation at No 3. Miller couldn't stop Philadelphia from drafting Porzingis, but he could limit the information they had to make a decision. And did. No physical. No meeting. No workout. The Sixers passed on Porzingis on draft night, clearing the way for the Knicks to select him.
This is the first real characterization of the blanket, "agents don't like to work with Hinkie!" angle that has been beaten to death over the last couple years. It's not a flattering picture for the Sixers GM, but there's more to unpack here than that.
I'm of several minds about this. There's the instant, visceral reaction that stems from pride; if Porzingis or any other player doesn't want to be a part of what the Sixers are trying to build, who wants him here anyway?
Part of the reason the Sixers have remained a decent watch during lean times is due to player buy in. Having guys that will not just but put in the work, but believe in the ability of themselves and the organization to rebuild from ground zero is critical to team culture. Part of me looks forward to Joel Embiid walking into Madison Square Garden next season and dunking on Porzingis so hard that he rips a hole in space time.
Before going all anti-Porzingis out of defense, however, consider what we know and the other factors involved.
From everything that has been said about Porzingis -- hard worker, basketball junkie, etc. etc. -- I can't imagine he would have put up a stink no matter who drafted him. Many of the same rumors circled around Jahlil Okafor and his camp pre-draft, and despite some off-court issues, most signs point to him attempting to become the best basketball player he can be. That, along with putting guys in position to become their best selves, is ultimately what matters for the Sixers.
It's also important to note that Porzingis' agent, Andy Miller, represents a couple clients on the Sixers roster: Hollis Thompson and Nerlens Noel.
The latter name is important in this equation; undoubtedly, Miller would have wanted to steer any big man client away from a situation in Philadelphia where young talent was already stacked in the paint.This goes double when one of his guys is already on board -- limited opportunities to show out cap future earnings potential for Miller and his players.
That's not necessarily an indictment of Hinkie and his relationship with agents, but perhaps a symptom of his drafting habits since taking over. Agents are behind the scenes politicking for clients at nearly all times. Their only job is to get their clients in position for maximum success, financially and on-court. Because the latter influences the former, it makes complete sense that Porzingis' team would be motivated to keep him away from Philadelphia, where minutes and touches would be at a premium, particularly if Joel Embiid gets healthy.
If it's more cynical than that, well, the Jerry Colangelo hire was made for this very reason. Smoothing over relationships with agents and rival executives was an explicit reason for bringing him on board.
Additionally, Hinkie's fact-finding ability and tireless scouting is supposed to benefit the franchise. If in fact the Sixers have (occasionally) had to work from less information than rivals as a side effect of The Process, that's a point in need of consideration.
In any case, this will probably do nothing other than prompt people to dig in on both sides of the perpetual Sixers argument. Supporters will claim this is overblown, while the critics must feel like they've added another feather to their cap.