- A bombshell report alleged that Bryan Colangelo used burner Twitter accounts to leak information, defend his work, and criticize players, coaches, and executives with the Philadelphia 76ers and other teams.
- The report comes just before a crucial summer for the 76ers, as they intend to chase big-name free agents in hopes of competing for a championship.
- It’s unclear where the Colangelo scandal may go, but at the moment, his credibility and trustworthiness with players may be on shaky ground.
There is never an opportune moment for a team’s president of basketball operations to be caught up in a burner Twitter account scandal, but the timing is especially inopportune for the Philadelphia 76ers.
On Tuesday, The Ringer’s Ben Detrick published a report alleging that Sixers president Bryan Colangelo had several burner Twitter accounts that he used to defend his work with the team, blame Joel Embiid’s management of his health and role with the team, suggest Jahlil Okafor failed physicals and could not be traded because of it, question Brett Brown’s coaching, and criticize former team GM Sam Hinkie and other NBA executives.
While it’s unclear if the tweets were indeed sent from Colangelo, they had several commonalities, from the subjects of the tweets to the accounts followed. When Detrick reached out to the 76ers about two of the accounts, intentionally not mentioning the other three, the other three accounts he didn’t mention were set on private shortly after that.
The 76ers on Wednesday announced they would conduct an independent investigation into the accounts. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Colangelo was calling the people mentioned in tweets from the accounts to tell them he wasn’t involved.
While it’s unclear where the process may go next, there’s a sense that the 76ers will need to save face. The NBA Draft (in which the Sixers have the 10th pick) is less than four weeks away, and free agency is just over a month away.
The Sixers are entering what could be their most crucial offseason in years. They have cap space in a summer when few other teams have space. And they have already essentially stated their intentions to chase the big fish – namely, LeBron James.
“I think another high-level free-agent is required (to win a championship),” Brown said during the season-end exit interview. “I think we have the ability to attract one.” When asked who that may be, Brown said: “We don’t have to turn this into calculus. It’s quite clear.” The plans could go beyond James, however. Paul George is also a free agent this summer, and the Sixers have the trade assets to make a run at Kawhi Leonard if he tells the San Antonio Spurs he wants out (whether the Sixers are interested is another question).
Guess who also doesn’t want to play for a team with a president who is allegedly publicly critical of the players and leaky with medical information: star players and players with injury histories.
The Athletic’s Derek Bodner nicely summed up Colangelo’s biggest problem going forward:
“No, it’s his credibility with players – both those currently on the roster and players whom the Sixers might hope to lure to the City of Brotherly Love in the future – where Colangelo will struggle the most.
“How do you reconcile with players who you are accused of having publicly ridiculed? How do you look Joel Embiid in the eyes if it turns out you’ve said he’s not the face of the franchise? How can anyone – from Markelle Fultz to Ben Simmons to LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard (especially Kawhi Leonard) – trust the Sixers with medical information if there’s any truth to Sixers’ upper brass tweeting out confidential information through freakin’ burner accounts on Twitter? If it’s found out that somebody close to Colangelo’s sphere ran the accounts, does that even change anything? Can this front office regain the trust they would have already lost in such a case?”
While it’s yet to be proven that Colangelo ran the accounts, barring evidence that shows he had nothing to do with it (according to Detrick, Colangelo owned up to one of the accounts that had not tweeted, saying he used it to keep up with NBA chatter privately), it may be hard to change the public view of him as a result of this scandal. And as Bodner noted, if it was one of Colangelo’s associates, he’s only a few degrees removed from the scandal.
After a season in which the Sixers won 52 games and made it to the second round of the playoffs, they don’t appear to be far off from championship contention if they can find another star to add to the roster while Embiid, Simmons, and the 20-year-old Markelle Fultz develop. This offseason could be crucial in building a roster that could dominate for years.
Of course, that may hinge on the next steps in the fallout from The Ringer’s report on Colangelo. There is no precedent in the NBA for how to handle such a situation, but at the moment, Philadelphia likely does not look like the most player-friendly destination for top free agents.