There are a pair of intriguing reports out with plenty of tea leaves for us to unpack. One was a piece by Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer, the other by Kyle Neubeck of The PhillyVoice. It’s now been over a month since the division rival Celtics roasted the Sixers in a clean four game sweep during the first round of the playoffs. There were some whispers of an evaluation and upheaval at the front office level from NBA Insiders regarding the Sixers. But since, the only person who has been formally let go, confusingly, was head coach Brett Brown, who was perhaps the person least responsible for all that has gone wrong for this team over the last couple of seasons. So where do we stand today?
First Pompey’s piece
Pompey’s piece is a doosy with tons to examine. If you haven’t read it yet, go do so first then come back.
“Brand has been given credit publicly for most of the Sixers’ key decisions since he was named GM two years ago. But the owners and other front-office people have been more deeply involved than the team has admitted.”
This first point comes as no surprise, as many insiders like Pompey, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Zach Lowe, author Yaron Weitzman, Derek Bodner and others have described how complex the Sixers front office has been since 2018. It dates back to the the decision the team made to to form a “collaborative” front office consisting of (as Wojnarowski has described) “multiple owners, you have other strong voices in the front office, and on the business side....”
2) Pompey reports that GM Elton Brand could be in line for an extension. Like...a long one:
“Still, he met with the team’s ownership on Monday to discuss a new contract, according to multiple sources. Sources added Brand was expecting to get a three- or four-year deal.”
Derek Bodner, Senior Writer of The Athletic, has called the idea that Elton Brand has rightly earned fan’s trust that he is the very best person for the top front office job moving forward “a tough sell.” What has gone right since Brand supposedly took over (but maybe not really?) And it at least sounds like that “sale’ could be a long-term proposal.
3. More from The Inky: “Looking for someone to add below Brand isn’t surprising to league sources, who always questioned ownership’s seriousness in regard to giving up its control to a team president.”
Pompey’s sources question if the managing partners in Philadelphia have interest in relinquishing the amount of power it would likely take to convince any qualified President of Basketball Operations to accept the position. I think it’s safe to assume that if these rumors are true, the team’s managing partners could still be heavily involved in basketball operations, despite seeing how things have played out with that dynamic so far.
4. “Brand is heading up the Sixers’ head-coaching search that is down to two candidates in former Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni and Los Angeles Clippers assistant coach Ty Lue.”
If you hadn’t heard this one yet, here it is again per Pompey. It’s been long reported that this ownership group and many members of the Bryan Colangelo-appointed front office who are still here liked the idea of hiring Mike D’Antoni. Maybe they’ll finally get their man. If so, Pompey mentions, it could raise some optics issues....
5. “However, it might receive some criticism if it hires D’Antoni, a white male, over Lue, 43, a Black male during a time when the NBA is promoting Black Lives Matter.”
An understatement by Marty T:
“They’ve said it’s hard to tell who’s in charge due to ownership’s earlier-than-expected involvement. Sources have been saying since last week that the job is D’Antoni’s to turn down. They say he’s the guy the ownership group wants. One source even said the 69-year-old would have to bomb his interview with the Sixers owners not to be offered the job.”
We’ve heard from Elton Brand himself that he is looking forward to putting his “stamp” on the franchise, and he stated “we feel that the collaboration days didn’t work to well.” But it sounds like Pompey’s sources, like most Sixers fans, will need to be persuaded otherwise, before buying that Brand now has full autonomy.
“The problem is that Brand is supposed to have a huge input on the hire. The ownership is only supposed to approve or deny Brand’s suggestion. Now, word is leaking out that Brand is pushing hard for the Sixers to hire D’Antoni and that Joel Embiid gave his blessing. In addition, there are reports that the Sixers will make trades if D’Antoni is hired. The expectation is that he’ll have a say in picking players for his freewheeling style of play.”
If your head is spinning following this team you’re not alone.
8. “However, league sources said questions about the Sixers’ front-office structure have concerned some qualified would-be candidates.”
We’ve already been down this road. Yaron Weitzman writes in his must-read book “Tanking to the Top:”
“Others pursued by the Sixers were wary of the team’s existing management structure. For one, Harris made clear that he expected whoever was hired to inherit the executives Colangelo had left behind. Harris and his partners expected to be involved and consulted in basketball decisions, and that the power vacuum created by the absence of both Jerry and Bryan Colangelo had provided them even more room to operate.”
It seems as though the Sixers insistence on maintaining a power structure that confuses reporters, insiders, and fans has and will continue to turn off some of the industry’s best and most qualified executives.
“They were also concerned that Embiid’s close relationship with ownership would have an impact on a coach’s authority. Another concern was Embiid and Ben Simmons being empowered to think they have a hand in the coaching hire. The sources also wonder who’s actually in charge, even though the Sixers keep saying it’s Brand.”
You have to wonder what Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons’ respective frustration levels might be when hearing about reports like these, don’t you? We still not having seen any major change take place to a front office that’s done such a poor job complementing each of their respective skill sets. And reports like these make you wonder how much change will take place anyway. Fan faith in the front office is at an all time low, so I’m curious about why the team’s superstars would feel much differently.
10. Final point from Pompey’s article we’ll look at.
“No one should be surprised that [Brand] wasn’t the final decision-maker during his first two years as GM. They picked Brand partly because he was agreeable to collaborative decision-making.”
Fair point. Not surprised. Just confused.
The next fascinating piece was from Neubeck of The PhillyVoice. Let’s take a look at that one.
“Multiple league sources who spoke with PhillyVoice have questioned whether D’Antoni is genuinely interested in the job or whether it’s a leverage play to get a better deal elsewhere.”
This feels like a distinct possibility. Just because we hear reports that one candidate is emerging as a front runner doesn’t mean anything is inevitable since there are incentives on both sides to have these rumors swirling. Coaches are building markets for themselves, teams are vying candidates against each other to not have to pay top dollar for their next signal caller.
Personally I find D’Antoni and Lue both great candidates. D’Antoni seems to me there is a higher ceiling (when his system works it changes the NBA) but lower floor (if it crashed and burned because Embiid wanted to post up and Simmons doesn’t shoot 3s nobody could be stunned).
2. Per Neubeck:
“However, there is widespread confusion about what the Sixers are doing and what the future holds. Elton Brand has been the leader and representative for the franchise during the search, but it remains unclear (even to league sources connected to the search) whether he’ll continue to be the head honcho or whether the coaching search can be finished without a definitive plan for the front office. Many around the league are skeptical ownership would relinquish increased power to a President of Basketball Operations, and hiring one in the first place would likely require putting the coaching search on hold to allow that person to come in and hire their preferred candidate.”
It sounds like Neubeck’s sources would agree with Pompey’s. Any fan who wanted to question just how much authority (if any) Brand has had in the past could reasonably question how much say Brand will have moving forward. This raises the specter of the team making a few cosmetic changes this off season without enacting any real change.
3. “Brand’s contract is another layer of complication, and Keith Pompey reported late Wednesday that Brand spoke with the Sixers about the potential for a new deal. Giving a new deal to a GM who has overseen (or at least been part of) a disastrous recent period for the franchise would raise some eyebrows, particularly when they haven’t concretely ruled out another hire being made above Brand.”
Fair point, Mr. Neubeck.
Odds and ends
Along with the “Sixers might be open to trade talk” rumors, there’s specifically some Buddy Hield of the Kings rumors.
And Buddy himself might like them:
The 76ers have expressed interest in trading for Kings sharpshooter Buddy Hield, per league source.— Ross (@LegionHoopsRoss) September 23, 2020
Kings-76ers talks have gained traction again.— Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson, M.A. (@ScoopB) September 23, 2020
Have heard: Sixers are interested in Buddy Hield.
But it is unclear if Kings have the similar level of devotion to adding Al Horford to their roster. pic.twitter.com/s6EbrvGDA6
Buddy wants to be a Sixer. Make it happen Elton pic.twitter.com/UGMq9W3Jc0— Will (@simmons_szn) September 23, 2020
Go read Pompey and Neubeck’s pieces, go scour Twitter for more rumors and try your best to avoid the Jimmy Butler is going to be in the finals stories.