The Philadelphia 76ers have been making headlines for all the wrong reasons so far this season. They started with a brutal and historic losing streak, then their prized rookie found himself in all sorts of off-court trouble, and to top it all off, there was virtually no end in sight to GM Sam Hinkie’s highly-controversial rebuilding process.
It all came to a head earlier this month when the franchise announced that they’d hired former Suns’ executive and current USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo as a special adviser. The message was clear: Hinkie’s so-called “Process” — which has included stockpiling assets and blatant unabashed tanking — was in dire need of clarity and direction.
Prior to that appointment, fans in Philly had become fed up with the incessant losing, and owners around the league had started complaining that the 76ers were affecting their own bottom lines, citing plummeting ticket sales whenever the team comes to town. It was at this point that NBA commissioner Adam Silver entered the fray and acted as some sort of liaison between Colangelo and the franchise.
The extent to which he was involved Colangelo’s hiring, however, is the source of some debate. Critics have voiced concerns about the commissioner using his considerable clout to put pressure on an organization and ultimately influence their business dealings. But Silver has since pushed back against that notion, claiming that his role in the situation has been vastly overstated. He doubled down on that stance Friday when he joined the FiveThirtyEightSports podcast “Hot Takedown:”
Chadwick Matlin: Anonymous reports suggested that [you stepped in and pushed for the hiring of Jerry Colangelo] due to owners who wanted the situation in Philadelphia changed. Are those reports correct?
Adam Silver: Those reports are not correct. Josh Harris, who’s the principal owner of the 76ers, decided on his own that he needed to change course. He and I had many conversations along the way about the utility of the strategy that he was following. And he came to the conclusion once this season began, and he saw how his team was performing on the floor, that he needed to change his strategy.
Other owners were not pressuring him at all. In fact, it’s a weird dynamic in the league that while all the owners would like to see teams well operated, other owners just want to win (laughter). And so nobody was calling me and saying go call the 76ers and tell them how to beat us.
Silver, however, conceded that he’s not exactly pleased with the way the Sixers have handled their rebuild, saying, “Am I fan of that strategy? Put it this way: No. But does that mean that it’s not acceptable under the league rules? It doesn’t.”
And that’s the rub of it. While the majority of owners are in favor of draft lottery reform, they ultimately voted down a package in the fall of 2014 that would’ve evened out the odds for the four worst teams in the league to land the top pick. Future reform talks have since been tabled indefinitely.