CLEVELAND – In the aftermath of revelations that Bryan Colangelo could be connected to several anonymous Twitter accounts that both criticized and revealed sensitive information about Philadelphia 76ers players, there was little doubt as to how this would end. “You all [the media] are focused on free agency, LeBron [James], all that,” a rival general manager told Yahoo Sports. “Forget that. How does [Colangelo] face the guys who [the accounts] tweeted about? How does anyone there trust him again?”
They can’t, the Sixers knew it, and on Thursday, Philadelphia parted ways with its embattled GM. Officially, Colangelo resigned, though sources told Yahoo Sports that Colangelo, 53, fought to keep his job the last few days as the law firm the Sixers engaged wound down its investigation. Its conclusions: Colangelo’s wife, Barbara Bottini, established and operated the accounts — which Bottini confirmed. And while it couldn’t determine if Colangelo was aware of them, there was “substantial evidence that Mr. Colangelo was the source of sensitive, non-public, club-related information contained in certain posts to the Twitter accounts,” and it believes Colangelo was “careless and in some instances reckless in failing to properly safeguard” the information, the firm said in a statement.
“We find the situation to be disappointing for our entire organization,” Sixers managing partner Josh Harris said Thursday in a statement. “We are determined to continue the tremendous progress we have made over the last two seasons in our quest to win an NBA championship.”
Said Colangelo via statement: “While I am grateful that the independent investigation conducted by the 76ers has confirmed that I had no knowledge of or involvement in the Twitter activity conducted by my wife, I vigorously dispute the allegation that my conduct was in any way reckless. At no point did I ever purposefully or directly share any sensitive, non-public, club-related information with her.
“Her actions were a seriously misguided effort to publicly defend and support me, and while I recognize how inappropriate these actions were, she acted independently and without my knowledge or consent. Further, the content she shared was filled with inaccuracies and conjecture, which in no way represent my own views or opinions. While this was obviously a mistake, we are a family and we will work through this together.
“Although I am not directly responsible for the actions, I regret this incident occurred and understand that it has become a distraction for the team.”
What a mess. The Sixers have two of the best young stars in basketball, oodles of cap space and a top-10 pick, and the front office is operating like a 21st century version of the Clampetts. Colangelo can deny providing his wife with inside information — though saying he never “purposefully or directly” shared sensitive information leaves enough wiggle room to shove the Liberty Bell through — but coach Brett Brown sure wasn’t feeding it to her. Besides, the grammatically challenged Joel Embiid smack talk isn’t the problem; dishing out information about Markelle Fultz’s shooting issues, information a select number of people would be privy to, is.
Is this bad for Philadelphia? Yes. Is it fixable? Yes, and easily, if the Sixers do one thing: hire David Griffin.
Philadelphia says it will begin a search for a new GM immediately, and at a press conference on Thursday, Harris suggested the process — there’s that word again — could bleed into July. There will be calls to bring back Sam Hinkie, whose rise from a reviled figure to revered has been astonishing. But bridges between Hinkie and Sixers ownership have been blowtorched; Hinkie isn’t coming back.
Nor should he. Hinkie painstakingly pieced together this roster, but Griffin is the one to lead it now. He’s the architect of Cleveland’s four-time conference finalist and has an NBA title on his resume. Yes, he had LeBron James, but with limited assets and a star that isn’t easy to find the right pieces to put around, Griffin assembled a championship roster.
How is this not a no-brainer?
Griffin would immediately restore credibility to the front office at a critical time for the franchise. The Sixers have made the jump from bad to really good; now comes the hard part. They share a division with Boston, an emerging titan with more firepower than Philly. To keep up with the Celtics, the Sixers need to be shrewd. That means hitting on low draft picks, signing the right free agents and managing a roster of egos that likely will grow larger by the year.
That means hiring David Griffin.
Philadelphia is a punchline right now, in the cross hairs of NBA Twitter. But it can get out, quickly. Marc Eversley is a strong internal candidate, Boston’s Mike Zarren deserves a GM gig and San Antonio’s Brian Wright shares Brown’s Spurs ties. But Griffin just makes too much sense. He won’t bring James to Philly — James isn’t choosing to play anywhere because of the general manager — but he would put them back on the path Harris and Co. are so desperate to stay on.
So don’t overthink this, Philadelphia. Don’t drag out an interview process because you want to appear to be doing a thorough search, and don’t think about going into free agency without a permanent decision-maker in place. David Griffin is out there. Go get him.
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