Sixers decided Bryan Colangelo's strength, like Sam Hinkie's, had become a liability | David Murphy

Sixers decided Bryan Colangelo's strength, like Sam Hinkie's, had become a liability | David Murphy

The blades beat down from atop the building and the ground below pulsed with a rhythmic bump.

Ten minutes earlier, Josh Harris had been seated inside, fielding questions with the chagrined look of a man at the mercy of circumstances outside his control. Now, he was high above it all, his helicopter rising unsteadily from its pad like a toddler to its feet. For a moment, it hovered there, as if contemplating contours of the parking lot beneath it. Then, it was gone, banking to the right into a straight-line path that led it back to the city from which it had come.

With that, the strangest chapter yet in the Sixers’ farcical history came to a close. Or, if not a close — for the fun never really ends around here, does it? — then perhaps a coda, or, if not that, then at least some semblance of resolution.

After a two-week reunion tour as the NBA’s laughingstock, the Sixers arrived at a decision that had seemed obvious all along.

In the end, the notion that Bryan Colangelo could continue in his job as the franchise’s top basketball decision-maker proved too difficult to believe. While the organization’s investigation found nothing to disprove the claims of both him and his wife that the inflammatory Twitter accounts at the center of the scandal were her doing alone, it also concluded that such a reality had ceased to matter. Harris is a man who put himself in position to become an NBA owner thanks to his keen understanding of the instructive nature of balance sheets, and the Sixers clearly had a liability in their ledger.

There will be plenty of time to look forward, to consider the question of where the organization goes from here.

>> READ MORE: Bryan Colangelo’s downfall is stunning, but the Sixers did the right thing

In spite of everything that has happened, the answer is likely to be the same as it was before. The Sixers will still enjoy one of the brightest futures of any NBA team. They will still be a destination that this summer’s elite free agents will strongly consider, and the front office vacancy that is now officially open will become the league’s most in-demand job.

As Brett Brown said at one point in the news conference Thursday, “We’ve all been doing this long enough to understand that this too shall pass.”

Before turning the page, though, let’s make some final sense out what what “this” actually was.

What’s clear is that when The Ringer published its expose on the handful of Twitter accounts that seemed to be leaking inside information in their vehement defense of Colangelo’s job performance, it unleashed a drama that unfolded on two levels.

The first, and most obvious, involved the short- and long-term future of an organization that saw itself as sitting on the precipice of a franchise-defining summer. When Harris and his ownership group hired Colangelo two years ago after first bringing aboard his famous father, their motivating factor was a moment like the one they currently face.

There would soon come a time, the thinking went, when the Sixers would need a respected member of the NBA establishment to lure the big-ticket free agents who would finish the rebuilding project that Sam Hinkie had begun. Then, suddenly, a month before free agency and a few weeks before the draft, they found themselves mired in a crisis concerning the very credibility they thought they’d managed to attract.

“It’s an unfortunate situation,” Harris said, “but it doesn’t change where we are as a franchise. We’re incredibly focused on the draft and free agency and improving our team. . .but we would have preferred if this didn’t happen.”

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JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer

Bryan Colangelo.

In this, the legions of fans who disagreed with the decision to part ways with Hinkie understandably see a form of poetic justice. Indeed, there is more than a little bit of irony here, as both men’s strengths proved to be their undoing.

Hinkie’s anti-establishment mind-set was the reason he was able to lay the foundation for where the Sixers find themselves now. His lack of regard for convention not only led to the drafting of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, but it also created an environment in which valuable role players like Robert Covington and T.J. McConnell could emerge.

In the end, the establishment won. But now, two years later, comes a reminder of the risks an individual faces when surface-level convention is the chief quality he offers.

Whether or not this is a fair characterization of Colangelo’s abilities, he positioned himself from the beginning as the adult in the room. In contrast to his predecessor, who detailed for his fans a concrete plan with a specific long-term vision, Colangelo never offered the public anything deeper than run-of-the-mill organizational custodianship.

>>READ MORE: In Brett Brown, the Sixers have a decent GM at last

This job, he said once, was all about relationships. Not vision, or the assessment of value, or the willingness to challenge established paradigms in the evaluation of talent. It was about whom you know and how well you know them and how you leverage those relationships.

This is the biggest reason to believe that Colangelo was telling the truth when he told his bosses that he had no idea of his wife’s social media habits. People who lean heavily on their self-image tend to understand how fastidiously they need to guard it, for once that image is tarnished, they have little to fall back on.

Therein lies the second layer of drama. What first appeared to be farce turned out to be tragedy, this on the most human level. However you feel about Colangelo’s tenure as general manager, it does not diminish the challenge he faces as a husband.

But, then, those who accept a job in basketball do so with an implicit agreement: Basketball is a business, and when business is threatened, the market demands that it fly on without them.

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Published at Fri, 08 Jun 2018 12:28:21 +0000

Categories: Sixers

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