When the Philadelphia 76ers lost the 1977 NBA title despite featuring a talented roster and Julius Erving and George McGinnis in their primes, the team infamously led 1977-78 off with the team-sponsored declaration, telling its fans “we owe you one.” Embarrassingly, the team was unable to give its fans back what it purported to have owed them for another half-decade, with Erving winning the only NBA championship of his career in 1983.
The 2014 incarnation of the Sixers? It owes its fans something strong. The team topped off nearly a decade’s worth of pound-foolish NBA planning with the most blatant full-season tank job in recent NBA history, culminating in a 26-game losing streak and “only” resulting in the third pick in the 2014 NBA draft.
Rumored to be heavily interested in Kansas swingman Andrew Wiggins with that pick, the 76ers flew Wiggins in for an interview and workout earlier this week, but for some reason the team shrouded his arrival with darkened windows, all while shooing reporters away from the scene at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Dei Lynam of CSN Philadelphia reports:
Wiggins visit to the Sixers’ practice facility this morning was a logical assumption. While waiting to see or talk to Wiggins, PCOM security guards told gathered reporters and autograph seekers that we were on private property and had to leave the premises.
The Sixers organization did not immediately respond when asked if PCOM security acted at their request.
Not always the best idea when you’re basically introducing what could be the new Sixers savior, via the media’s cameras and digital recorders, to your fans.
John Gonzalez reports that a lightened version of that same routine went down on Tuesday, as well:
Tuesday morning, after the media reconvened at PCOM and took another crack at talking to Wiggins -– he was scheduled for his official workout -- the Sixers dispatched an emissary. He said there was a miscommunication. He said PCOM security acted without the Sixers’ knowledge. He said the Sixers didn’t know the media had been asked to leave. He said, essentially, that no one ordered the code red.
Here’s a clip to the video of the semi-apology, though the actual apology never appeared on film:
Apparently, the approach went down on Wednesday, as well. From Ben Watanabe at NESN:
This is pretty much all we know, however, because the Sixers under general manager Sam Hinkie continue to employ a draconian media relations policy. It’s not the Sixers’ refusal to make players who come in for workouts available to reporters, as they have since Hinkie arrived last year, that is absurd. It’s the measures the organization is willing to employ to enforce it. The last couple of days have gone something like this, according to people who were there: Hearing that Wiggins would be in town, beat writers showed up at PCOM on Monday hoping the team might make an exception for the highest-profile prospect to be on the Sixers’ radar during Hinkie’s tenure. Not only were the reporters denied access to Wiggins, they were effectively quarantined in a parking garage, then across the street, after they were informed by security that the public sidewalk outside the facility was off limits.
As Watanabe notes, the ability for a top draft prospect to give a few milquetoast quotes to reporters in the week leading up to the NBA draft truly seems rather pointless in comparison to a few larger global issues. The problem here is that we, as sports fans, turn to sports as a way to remove ourselves from fretting over larger global issues, and that Sixers fans have had very little to cheer about recently.
Reportedly, the Sixers are nervous that they’ll lose out on Wiggins to either the Cleveland Cavaliers or Milwaukee Bucks, teams that have the top two picks in next week’s showcase, and that general manager Sam Hinkie has been attempting to pair the No. 3 pick with forward Thaddeus Young in attempts to move up. There’s no point in listening to just about any un-sourced reports from any side at this point, because both teams and agents alike are tossing out rumor after rumor to either trump up or trump down any rumored interest teams have in specific players.
Hinkie isn’t going to lose any negotiating ground if it allows local media to note that, yes, the Sixers are interviewing one of the top three picks in the 2014 NBA draft. And while he doesn’t have to allow full camera access to Wiggins being put through the paces on the court, he can at least help his long-starving fans understand that things will likely turn out better for their favorite team, regardless of who they’re able to choose next Thursday. He’s already proven, in quick comments after landing in Philadelphia, that he’s able to handle himself in front of a microphone.
Your fans have to get a taste, Sam Hinkie. They put up with shooting for 45 wins and they put up with a season-long tank job. Give them at least a glimpse of what it would be like to see a franchise player actually wearing 76ers warm-up gear, even if you choose another franchise player with whatever pick you end up with.
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