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NBA Daily: What’s to Make of This Situation in Philly?

This Bryan Colangelo kerfluffle in Philadelphia could be nothing more than gossip, but if it’s true, then Philly has a problem.

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Somehow, some way, even when there are no games being played at the moment, the NBA never fails to entertain. From the vetoed Chris Paul trade in 2011 to DeAndre Jordan reneging the Mavericks in 2015, it seems that, over the past several years, the NBA has consistently amused fans, teams, and media alike with bizarre controversies going on behind the scenes that somehow get exposed to the public.

This year, in particular, has been one of the league’s craziest cases. This season, Markelle Fultz missed the majority of his rookie year with an unknown shoulder injury that no one has been able to explain. This season, several Houston Rockets tried to find their way into the Los Angeles Clippers’ locker room to confront Austin Rivers. This season, NBA players and personnel such as Kevin Durant, Steve Kerr, and Eric Bledsoe all made their own gaffes on Twitter.

But this story might top them all.

For those of you who have been out of the loop since last night, the Ringer’s Ben Detrick just recently published an exposé detailing five secret Twitter accounts that are allegedly run by Philadelphia 76er’s president of basketball operations and general manager Bryan Colangelo. In these burner accounts, Colangelo has allegedly criticized both former and current players and personnel alike in the Sixers’ organization, including former Sixers General Manager Sam Hinkie, Head Coach Brett Brown, All-star Center Joel Embiid, former lottery picks Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel, and Fultz while simultaneously praising both himself and his work as general manager.

One thing needs to be clear before any conclusions are made: None of this has been confirmed. Colangelo has denied any involvement in this predicament, and Embiid, though at first appearing dismayed when the article was first published, has since voiced his support for his general manager. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, other general managers around the league have also shown their support for Colangelo after this story’s release.

Something that also needs to be abundantly clear is that exposés like this need to be investigated to their fullest. It is so easy in the internet age to make an immediate judgment with stories as bizarre and controversial as this one could supposedly be when it’s possible that not all the facts are present. If this story turns out to not be true, and Colangelo indeed had nothing to do with these alleged burner accounts, then apologies need to be made to the Sixers’ general manager from everyone involved. No public figure deserves that kind of slander, and Colangelo would be no exception.

However, there are pieces of evidence that support this story’s legitimacy. Four of the five burner accounts that were referenced in Detrick’s article were all set to private almost immediately after the article was published, and it’s been shown that at least three of these accounts were linked to the same phone number. Again, nothing is concrete, but those two examples put forth a compelling argument against Colangelo.

That could also support the argument that someone is trying to set Colangelo up. Those actions could make Colangelo look guilty, but someone who could hypothetically be framing Colangelo may know that those actions would make him look guilty, so all of this evidence could very well be speculation and nothing more.

But, if this is all true, then not only is this the most insane story in a season that’s been filled with them, but the Sixers’ offseason could potentially get a lot murkier if they don’t handle this situation properly.

If this story is legitimate, then Colangelo has to go. No questions asked. The content of those tweets is beyond unprofessional for an executive to make and those kinds of actions make any team look similarly unprofessional if that general manager is not let go. At a time like this, the Sixers cannot afford any bad press coming their way because of all that they’ve built toward since the start of this last season.

This season, the Sixers took their first big step towards relevancy after their much-prolonged rebuild. Things may not have ended the way they would have hoped for in the playoffs, but the Sixers still exceeded all expectations by winning over 50 games and getting the third seed in the east just one year after having the third worst record in the league. Embiid and Simmons established themselves as young franchise cornerstones, and this summer, the Sixers have enough cap space to pay a star player a max contract. This summer specifically is very important to them because:

A. Not a lot of teams have cap space
B. The ones that do are rebuilding (The Lakers being the only exception)
C. Superstars such as LeBron James and Paul George will be on the market.

Philadelphia will be chasing both, with the focus primarily being on LeBron for obvious reasons. On paper, LeBron would be the last piece of the puzzle that could get Philly to the Finals or, better yet, a championship. This kind of bad press is exactly what scares off the big name free agents, not just because of the lack of professionalism, but also because it shows that general managers like that clearly have little regard for keeping their opinions about their players behind closed doors.

Philly cannot afford to screw up their chance at signing LeBron this summer, so if this is real, then Colangelo should pack his bags, but the key word is if. If this all turns out to be fake, then this could very well end up being the biggest smear job ever done in the history of sports.

Either way, this was the craziest plot thread to come out of the NBA this season — no matter what the outcome is.

Matt John is a staff writer for Basketball Insiders. He is currently a Utah resident, but a Massachusetts native.

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