Report: 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie reneged on promise to release Andrei Kirilenko

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Update: Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This likely explains how the 76ers got an extra roster spot to acquire Jared Cunningham.

 

The Nets traded Andrei Kirilenko, because they didn’t want to pay him or the amount he increased their luxury-tax bill. The 76ers took him, because they’re far enough below the salary floor that his salary contributes to dollars they’d have to spend anyway, and they got a draft pick from Brooklyn for their trouble.

Those are the details, in simplest terms, that motivated the deal.

It has gotten much more complicated since.

A family issue has reportedly kept Kirilenko in the New York area. The 76ers want him to report, but he has yet to do so.

Some are blaming Philadelphia general manager Sam Hinkie for the stalemate.

Bob Ford of The Inquirer:

According to two sources with inside knowledge of the negotiations, the Sixers had agreed to release veteran forward Andrei Kirilenko after the trade was consummated, but did not follow through on that handshake deal. Kirilenko, who played only seven games with the Nets this season, remains on the Sixers roster but has refused to join the team despite a request to do so.

“He might have an IQ of 150, but [Hinkie] doesn’t seem to realize you have to deal with these people over and over,” one league source said.

Could Hinkie have misinterpreted or misunderstood the alleged agreement with the Nets, who wanted to satisfy the desire of Kirilenko – a favorite of Russian team owner Mikhail Prokhorov – to become a free agent?

“No,” said another source. “I think he started thinking he can just hold onto him and use him at the trade deadline in a package to get something.”

Nets general manager Billy King and Hinkie both declined to comment on the record for this story, but a Sixers team source disputed the allegation.

“We made the trade to get the draft pick and in hopes [Kirilenko] might play for us,” the Sixers source said. “[Releasing him] was not a condition of the trade, but I have no idea what was said to him on the other end.”

The 76ers waived a physical as condition of the trade, according to Ford, a clear sign they’re not too concerned about Kirilenko playing for them. That, and every other move Hinkie has made, indicates this trade was about the financials, not Kirilenko as a player.

Kirilenko’s contract could be useful to facilitating another deal before the deadline, and I can see why the 76ers would strategically want to hold it until then. Heck, there’s no reason they wouldn’t also hope Kirilenko plays, exceeds expectations and somehow fetches an asset for what he can do on the court.

I’m confused why anyone cares whether the 76ers release Kirilenko now. If a family matter is keeping Kirilenko in New York – before the trade, Kirilenko was available only for Nets home games – what is he going to do as a free agent? League rules prevent him from signing with the Nets. Does he want to sign with the Knicks? As Phil Jackson dismantles his team, what use would they have for a 33-year-old?

Kirilenko’s absence is reportedly due to his wife’s pregnancy, so I suppose he just wants to ensure he has his options open if he returns later in the season. But if the 76ers don’t flip Kirilenko, I can’t see why they wouldn’t be willing to release him after the trade deadline. And if a team trades for Kirilenko, it will either be:

  • for his contract to make salaries match, and that team can release him.
  • for his playing ability, and there probably aren’t any of those. But if there is, Kirilenko joining that squad wouldn’t be so bad on his end.

In the meantime, Kirilenko’s status with Philadelphia is unclear.

The 76ers’ trade for Jared Cunningham gave them 16 players. Though they waived Cunningham, they still temporarily exceed the typical limit of 15 players.

Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said a hardship granted the 76ers the extra roster spot. Without four injured players who’ve missed three straight games (only Jason Richardson, Joel Embiid and Hollis Thompson have), Philadelphia wouldn’t have qualified through the method discussed here. It’s possible the 76ers or NBA has quietly suspended Kirilenko for failing to report, and if he’s on the suspended list, he wouldn’t count toward the active or inactive lists.

NBA by-laws also allow teams to exceed roster maximums in the event of “extreme hardship” if a majority of the Board of Governors allows it.

Given how people are talking about Hinkie, though, I doubt other teams are rushing to help the 76ers. Ford:

“General managers like to call each other and talk, but nobody wants to talk to Sam Hinkie. Nobody trusts this guy,” one source said.

There is a perception in some corners that Hinkie is unqualified to run a team, because he lacks the necessary interpersonal skills. It’s a fair concern, but I’m not qualified to say whether it’s fairly applied to Hinkie.

I like the rebuilding approach he has taken, and I think the 76ers have a bright future once they finish tanking. Hinkie deserves a chance to see this process through.

But as long as he remains general manager, these shots at him will continue. He’s a threat to the old guard that dislikes his analytical approach.

And like I said, the concern is fair. People skills are important to being a general manager.

But, in this case with Kirilenko, I don’t see enough evidence to convict Hinkie of wrongdoing.

Break up the Suns! Phoenix remains perfect in bubble defeating OKC

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Devin Booker scored 35 points, and the Phoenix Suns rolled past the short-handed Oklahoma City Thunder 128-101 on Monday to remain perfect and improve to 6-0 in the restart and improve their playoff chances.

The Suns have surged in the Western Conference standings. They entered the day just 1 1/2 games behind eighth-place Memphis and a game behind ninth-place Portland in the race to qualify for a spot in the play-in series.

“We haven’t accomplished anything,” Phoenix coach Monty Williams said. “That may sound like coach-speak, but we dug ourselves a hole with our record. We scrapped all year long and won some games, but it’s been an uphill battle.”

Williams appreciates the position the Suns are in.

“We’ve done a good job of getting to this point,” he said. “No one knew we were going to be here, but we’re here and we’re thankful for that.”

Phoenix center Deandre Ayton sat out the first quarter because he missed his coronavirus test on Sunday. He tested negative on Monday and was cleared. He started the second quarter.

“In an NBA season guys are going to make mistakes,” Williams said. “You have to be able to give people grace. It wasn’t intentional. Thankfully he was able to get tested early enough that he was able to come back and play, and the guys received him with open arms because we all understand we’re human.”

With Ayton out, Oklahoma City led 37-23 at the end of the first quarter. After Ayton entered the game, Phoenix dominated the rest of the way. He finished with 10 points and six rebounds in just over 17 minutes.

Oklahoma City was without four of its top five scorers. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (bruised right calf), Danilo Gallinari (left ankle maintenance), Dennis Schroder (birth of child) and Steven Adams (bruised left leg) sat out. Reserve center Nerlens Noel (sprained right ankle) also did not play.

Rookie Darius Bazley had 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Thunder.

The Suns rallied from 15 points down in the second quarter to take a 65-64 lead at halftime. Phoenix opened the second half on an 11-2 run and controlled the game from there.

“I thought their pressure disrupted us,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “I thought we got a little bit stagnant. We made some pretty decent plays. We were able to get some open looks, but I thought there in the second quarter they turned up their defensive intensity and that probably took us out of some rhythm.”

Rumor: Pelicans will soon fire coach Alvin Gentry

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry
Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images
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Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry works for a lead executive – David Griffin – who inherited, rather than chose, Gentry in the first place. Gentry has had just one winning season in five years in New Orleans, and the Pelicans particularly underwhelmed this season.

Connect the dots.

William Guillory of The Athletic:

The worst-kept secret in the NBA is that Gentry’s time with the Pelicans won’t last much longer.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Executive VP David Griffin and Pelicans ownership have a decision to make with a year left on Gentry’s contract, sources said. Consider two relationships Griffin has back to his front-office days in Cleveland and Phoenix, respectively, if there’s a change in New Orleans: LA Clippers assistant Ty Lue and Los Angeles Lakers assistant Jason Kidd, sources said.

Zion Williamson was transcendent at times this season. Brandon Ingram blossomed. Youngsters Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Jaxson Hayes showed flashes. Veterans Jrue Holiday, J.J. Redick and Derrick Favors provided reliable depth and versatility.

But New Orleans was never quite as good as the sum of its parts.

Some of that falls on Gentry.

The Pelicans’ defense was often scrambled. An offensive-minded coach, Gentry hasn’t shown he can correct that issue. His lineup decisions rarely maximized the offense, either.

Lue and Kidd are unsurprising candidates. Lue had a great record working for Griffin with the Cavaliers (obligatory LeBron James mention), and Kidd is good at getting his name tied to job searches. Are Lue and Kidd the most likely coaches to replace Gentry? Maybe. Or maybe they’re just the first candidates to emerge publicly. This job search isn’t even officially underway.

But it could be soon.

76ers coach Brett Brown says he expects Joel Embiid (ankle injury) back before playoffs

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Joel Embiid injured his ankle in the 76ers’ loss to the Trail Blazers yesterday.

How serious is it?

Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

Joel Embiid is out for Tuesday’s game against the Suns with the left ankle injury he sustained in the first quarter Sunday vs. the Blazers. He’ll be undergoing treatment and evaluation at the team’s practice Monday night.

Brett Brown said he expected Embiid to play again before the playoffs, though characterized that view as “just one man’s opinion.”

That sounds like great news for Philadelphia, which is already without Ben Simmons.

Embiid can be dominant. With him, the 76ers still have a chance of advancing in the playoffs. It might even be easier to create space around Embiid – where Embiid can really feast – without Simmons (though the loss of the talented Simmons lowers Philadelphia’s ceiling).

However, the 76ers don’t deserve benefit of the doubt for setting accurate injury timelines, particularly with Embiid. There’s an element of “see it to believe it” here.

J.J. Redick loses NBA’s longest-active individual playoff streak (13 years)

Pelicans guard J.J. Redick
Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images
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As J.J. Redick stared into the distance, he had to see this coming.

Redick will miss the playoffs for the first time in his 14-year career. His Pelicans were eliminated from the postseason race yesterday.

At 13 years, Redick’s playoff streak is tied for the 13th-longest in NBA history. No current player has a longer streak at any point his career. LeBron James also had a 13-year playoff streak (which was snapped last year).

Here are the longest individual postseason streaks in NBA history:

Obviously, some of Redick’s streak was out of his control. He got drafted in 2006 by the Magic, who were rising with Dwight Howard. But Redick’s competitiveness and professionalism made him a steady contributor, and he chose winning situations with the Clippers then 76ers.

But New Orleans was too flawed to make a major leap in this Western Conference.

This clears the way for Bucks wing Kyle Korver to take over the longest active playoff streak. He has played in the last 12 postseasons, and Milwaukee has already clinched a playoff berth.

Here are the longest postseason streaks that could remain active this year.

Players whose teams have already clinched a playoff berth are in blue. Players whose teams are still in the race but haven’t clinched are in gold.

Players are listed with the teams they made the postseason with during their streaks. If they haven’t reached the playoffs with their current team, that team is listed in brackets: