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Does the NBA still not want to see the Sixers succeed?

Another blow comes down from the league office.

Los Angeles Lakers v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

In case you missed it Saturday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the following:

It was dropped almost as an aside in a greater piece about the fate and freedom of high school athletes who want to bypass the NCAA experience and declare themselves eligible for the NBA draft.

But some smart local reporters didn’t miss the implication:

Because it’s not an aside to the Philadelphia 76ers organization, is it? Make no mistake, if true, it would represent a league attempt to thwart or impede an NBA organization who may have been clever enough to place additional value onto a certain unprotected draft pick because of the possibility this rule change might come in 2021. That would have made the 2021 draft class especially deep and talented. And it would represent a direct attempt to thwart a team who was open and honest enough to explain its rationale to a fan base who may have been confused or saddened by the draft day trade of a local hero and NCAA champion, Mikal Bridges.

Brett Brown was forthcoming on draft night:

“That pick might be the key to all of this. That pick might be the thing that links a possible trade.... and then, there’s a 2021 pick, and we all understand, that that could be the year that high school people are allowed into the NBA...we are star hunting....”

Here is more of that press conference.

So what? If the Sixers hadn’t said a word about their move to pacify a panic-stricken fan base (who was crushed to see Bridges shipped off unceremoniously to Phoenix) then the league would have had one less reason to push the high school eligibility year to 2022!? How is that a factor at all in their decision? What if it was the Knicks who had found a way to acquire that pick? Would their thinking have been a reason to bump eligibility back to 2022? What if the Sixers admitted that the new lottery odds had played a part in a trade would that have been a reason to further amend the pick odds?

This hurts because the Sixers could own six picks in 2021, but just two in 2022.

In a debate about age, eligibility, the NCAA, and so much more, one that rightly involves the league and its NBPA, it’s almost baffling that a team who knew of this possibility and was smart enough to factor it into its thinking, and open enough to share this strategy with its fan base, would be intentionally thwarted by the league.

Why would this be?

I don’t know. Maybe the league did not want Brett Brown to have thought of this while wheeling and dealing. Maybe it simply didn’t want him to share his thinking with his fans for some reason. Or maybe it prefers when other teams are successful for unrelated reasons. Maybe it didn’t want the Suns to have lost too much value in the deal. Maybe it generally rewards teams who pretend, say, things like tanking are literally impossible, and punishes others who are more honest with fans. Maybe it’s a complex set of variables and previous conflicts. Who knows....

It certainly brings to mind the long-standing grudge many Philadelphia basketball fans have against the NBA’s front office. Remember in the middle of his third season as Team President, when Sam Hinkie was eventually squeezed out for the now disgraced Bryan Colangelo? Colangelo was sold as a “basketball guy” and a “relationship guy”, but that move backfired on both accounts maybe worse than any devoted Hinkie fan could have ever imagined. So why did that happen? It’s not the best kept secret that NBA League Commissioner, Adam Silver, may have encouraged or pressured the Sixers owners to find a new leader for their team. And horrifyingly to Sixers fans looking back now, that intervention seems to have actually worked on a then-impressionable Sixers ownership group. And it’s no well-kept secret among NBA circles how that decision may have cost the Sixers dearly in terms of their chances to win one or more championships. While Sam Hinkie was on the good end of three of the most lop-sided trades over the last 10 years, it’s becoming increasingly scary to Sixers fans that Bryan Colangelo may wind up on the bad end of his biggest move.

If you trust one of the most trusted reporters in sports, Adrian Wojnarowski, then the Sixers may have more obstacles than your average team. Instead of simply worrying about the Toronto Raptors, Milwaukee Bucks, or Boston Celtics, they get the rare “privilege” to also be contending with a league office with some apparent grudge, one who has proven willing - for whatever reason - to take action and intervene against this particular franchise.

If you ask me, it’s possible that the team may have once again been a bit too open and transparent about basketball strategy for the NBA’s liking. Let’s face it, the truth isn’t always good Public Relations, is it? And the Sixers again may have been dealt a forcible blow for that apparent transgression. At the risk of sounding a bit highfalutin, it was local hero William Penn who once said “truth often suffers more by the heat of its defenders, than from the arguments of its opposers.” Maybe if the Sixers lied harder during “The Process” or lied recently after a major trade they wouldn’t incur as much wrath from the business powers that be.

You don’t want to have to rely on the speculation of a Sixers fan like me. Hopefully we get some answers from ESPN immediately on the ludicrous question of: why on earth the Sixers considering 2021 as a potential first year high school players may jump straight to the NBA was reportedly used as one of the reasons to push that year back to 2022? Perhaps Woj is working on a massive exposé right now, since the implication for what he’s reporting seems like it might be some form of collusion and not just an aside, doesn’t it? Can’t wait to hear more.

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