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Reports That Sixers Overhauled Culture, Relationships Are Greatly Exaggerated

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We can talk about the new regime without revising history.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

When people disagree with something without having the requisite facts or gumption to take a stand against it themselves, the easiest way to get around it is to have somebody else do the talking. Asking questions and framing quotes with a story in mind -- instead of letting the story unfold naturally -- happens a lot, particularly when dealing with a divisive topic like the Sixers.

All of that comes together in this story on Philly.com. It very easily could have been a profile piece on Jersey product Malachi Richardson and his interest in playing for the Sixers.

Instead, quotes from Richardson and Clemson swingman Jaron Blossomgame were used as a jumping off point for this (bold emphasis mine):

The Sixers have slowly been building pieces since the start of the 2013-14 season. Under former president of basketball operations and general manager Sam Hinkie, however, winning wasn't the immediate goal during the last three seasons. The goal was to sacrifice wins as a way to secure lottery picks. Posting a 47-199 record over the last three seasons, they accomplished that. The only problem was that draft prospects didn't want to be a part of the process.

Most refused to participate in predraft workouts or interviews with the Sixers brass.

This is a (now literally!) bold-faced lie I am stunned made it to print.

Famously, agent Andy Miller steered Kristaps Porzingis away from the Sixers during the pre-draft process, which has been painted as an example of the impact of "bad culture" on the team's fortunes. A quick look at the Sixers crowded frontcourt and a glance at Miller's client list -- which includes Nerlens Noel -- makes it pretty obvious why that happened.

Thankfully, there are human beings who play basketball other than Porzingis. The team here at LB has been keeping track of workouts and interviews conducted by Sixers brass the last couple seasons, compiling public knowledge and tips from sources on players the team took a closer look at during the pre-draft process.

Those lists have proven to be extensive.

In 2014, the Sixers hosted the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Dante Exum and Marcus Smart for private, one-on-one workouts. They conducted interviews with the likes of Noah Vonleh, Aaron Gordon, Doug McDermott and Gary Harris. Critically, they were one of the only teams given Joel Embiid's medical information prior to the draft taking place, sources confirmed to Liberty Ballers, while others made attempts to purchase the records.

In 2015, the Sixers held private workouts with Emmanuel Mudiay, D'Angelo Russell and Justise Winslow, three of the very best players insiders thought would be available for them to pick at No. 3. They conducted interviews with players such as Willie Cauley-Stein, Stanley Johnson and Myles Turner, among others.

These are just some of the big names we know of, which is far from the sum of all the pre-draft work conducted by the franchise the last couple offseasons. Sources have indicated to Liberty Ballers that over 100 prospects made their way to PCOM per year, a number which represented a stated goal for the organization.

That is both an indication they'd be willing to represent the team and a glimpse of the work put in by the previous regime. Suggesting "most" prospects were unwilling to work out or interview with the team as a symptom of The Process is not just wrong, but willingly ignorant of public information.

Then there's this (bold emphasis mine):

Meanwhile, Hinkie's relationships with agents and opposing general managers soured.

The team pointed to the 2016-17 season as the time to repair relationships and try to start winning again.

League sources say the relationship part improved last month.

The funny thing about obsessing over abstract concepts like culture and relationships is when and/or how they matter. Relationships are more complicated than, "Will you do a deal with us?" but the idea of the Sixers as some poisoned well doesn't hold up. If the Sixers were able to provide something that helped teams and players achieve a goal, deals got done, whether it was a result of their cap space or a willingness to take chances on fringe players.

The Sixers were one of the most active teams in the league the last three seasons, conducting deals with New Orleans, Sacramento, Houston, Golden State, Detroit, Orlando, Milwaukee, Phoenix, Denver, Minnesota, New York, Brooklyn, Cleveland, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Washington, Indiana, Memphis and the Los Angeles Clippers. I promise your eyes aren't deceiving you -- trades with 19 separate franchises were conducted in just three years.

Any executive that would swear off even a single trading partner in a thirty-team operation is borderline useless. The same logic applies to players going through the draft process. Outside of a chosen few at the top of every draft class, players hoping to be drafted (and their agents) are not going to cut off potential suitors. If you asked a player like Richardson the same question with previous management in place, I guarantee the answer would have remained the same.

This is all without addressing the idea of a league source even being credible as to any changes in Sixers connections within a month of Bryan Colangelo being hired. If I blindly trusted a month's worth of information, Jeremy Lin would be Michael Jordan and Dom Brown would be Babe Ruth. Real life is a little more nuanced.

The Sixers aren't suddenly a destination because they hired a middle-aged executive, they are appealing to college players for reasons we have been shouting about for three years. With as many as four first-round picks in this year's draft and a bushel of minutes for young talent, the Sixers are one of the most attractive homes around for a young player. Ownership of those picks is a direct result of "relationships around the league" that are being presented as if they were in need of repair.

The premise of the article is spelled out in the headline: "Sixers now look appealing to some NBA draft prospects." To present this as new information is to suppose this wasn't true before, which is contradicted by the volume and caliber of players willing to make the trip to showcase their skills for the team. Changes are on the horizon, but being a desirable place for up-and-coming hoopers isn't one of them.