Ben Detrick of The Ringer sent tremors throughout NBA circles of the internet on Tuesday evening with his report about Bryan Colangelo allegedly using Twitter “burner” accounts to slander current and former players, former General Manager Sam Hinkie, as well as defend himself from criticism. In the story, Detrick explains how he was contacted by an anonymous user on the Social Media website who studied five different accounts and connected them via linguistic quirks and which accounts these profiles followed. The accounts levied a range of critiques; from questioning Joel Embiid’s fit as the franchise player, to speculation that potential Jahlil Okafor trades fell through because of a failed physical, to a statement that suggested Markelle Fultz’s struggles stemmed from a family tragedy, and as far as open disdain for Nerlens Noel.
The evidence is circumstantial, but there sure is a lot of it. The most damning piece is that three of those accounts were set to private shortly after Detrick contacted the team asking for a statement. Colangelo has since admitted that one of those accounts belonged to him, although he denied posting any tweets on that account. He also denied having anything to do with the four other accounts.
Like many of my colleagues in sports, I have used social media as a means to keep up with the news. While I have never posted anything whatsoever on social media, I have used the @Phila1234567 Twitter account referenced in this story to monitor our industry and other current events. This storyline is disturbing to me on many levels, as I am not familiar with any of the other accounts that have been brought to my attention, nor do I know who is behind them or what their motives may be in using them.
It’s a genuinely bizarre story, even for the NBA. But it will have some real world consequences. The Sixers have already launched an independent investigation, and Colangelo’s future as the General Manager and President of Basketball Operations likely hinges on the findings.
Maybe Colangelo’s future is already written. Even if no one can prove that all of this is true, the perception of Colangelo by players around the league likely won’t recover, and the team’s ability to function is hindered. If you’re LeBron James or Paul George, would you want to sign with a team whose GM publicly trashes his best players? If you’re Kawhi Leonard, would you want to be traded to a team whose GM discloses private medical information? Players will have serious reservations about signing with a team if Colangelo is at the helm. And even if the Sixers chooses to fire him, a team with a vacant GM position isn’t exactly appealing either.
And finally, something worth noting; the NBA Draft is less than a month away, and free agency looms as large as Colangelo’s shirt collars. The Sixers have the 10th pick, likely their last lottery selection for a long time. Going into the two most important roster building moments for this team’s foreseeable future with a brand new GM isn’t exactly ideal. For a team that needs everything to break right this offseason, this is the furthest thing from a good start.