Since the Philadelphia 76ers’ announcement that longtime NBA executive Jerry Colangelo had joined the team’s front office, two separate reports have emerged that paint the move straightforwardly as the beginning of the end for GM Sam Hinkie’s vaunted Process.
First came a story from USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt, who reported that Colangelo’s hiring, which came together very suddenly, was spurred on by NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who went so far as to call Colangelo in order to gauge his interest in joining the Sixers and speeding up the team’s rebuilding process.
Then came a report from ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, which backed up Zillgitt’s reporting and put a lot more weight behind the idea that Hinkie has much less power today than he did yesterday. From ESPN:
Despite Colangelo’s affirming Hinkie will retain final say on personnel matters and Harris’ saying this move was not a deviation from their plan, those who know Colangelo believe he will have major influence on significant decisions going forward.
“Jerry is not someone who just comes in and gives advice on something he’s invested in,” said one league executive with a long history with Colangelo. “I don’t see him as being just one voice in a collaborative process.”
“This is most certainly a wide-ranging deal,” another longtime league executive said. “Jerry is famous for being aggressive and getting perks, money and power in his deals.”
Windhorst added that NBA owners griping about the Sixers’ meager contributions to league revenue sharing and the overall economic drag they represent was what led to Silver stepping in. (That’s all well and good, but if those owners really have a problem with the Sixers’ cynical tanking plan, then they shouldn’t have voted with them when the issue of lottery reform came up.)
It’s hard to imagine Hinkie keeping his hand on the wheel after this, and it makes a fitting end to the most radical loophole-exploitation scheme seen in a major American sports league in a long time. The Process was predicated on treating the NBA as a market, defined by hard and fast rules that could be worked around, but that’s not right. It isn’t a real market, as evidenced by the fact that your competitors can shut you down if they find your schemes annoying enough, or injurious enough to their bottom lines. The NBA operates on a certain assumption of good faith; take too much or too obvious advantage of that, and what might look on paper like a very clever plan will ultimately prove too clever by half.
It may be going down unfairly on some level—even if you hate Hinkie’s plan, there’s something unseemly about his own rivals squashing him for their own advantage—but it’s hard to feel too bad for a guy who’s never shown any interest in giving his own fans (or anyone else’s) even a half-decent team to watch.