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.

Knicks “Leon Rose era” reportedly to start Sunday as new team president takes over

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Can superagent Leon Rose do what star player Isiah Thomas, and star coach Phil Jackson, could not?

Can he overcome ownership and change the culture around the New York Knicks, turning one of the NBA’s marquee brands back into a winner?

We’ll find out starting Sunday, reports Marc Stein of the New York Times.

A foundation needs to be built in New York — and the pieces are there to do it. They have a couple of nice young players in RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson, plus New York has seven first-round picks in the next four years.

This is where the change in culture and foundation comes in — will the Knicks have the scouting, and the player development personnel, in place to take advantage of this? Sure, they need some luck with the ping-pong lottery balls, but can they find and develop guys down the board? Can they draft and develop a Brandon Clarke or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander or Donovan Mitchell or Bam Adebayo?

Can Rose instill a culture where players are brought in, challenged and developed, and grown into quality rotation players? They did that just over the Brooklyn Bridge: Young players such as Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, and Jarrett Allen were developed into a team that made the playoffs last season, and will again this season. Brooklyn built a foundation that became a place stars such as Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant wanted to play.

It will start with a vision by Rose, then the hiring of a head coach and basketball staff that understands how to execute that vision. Without interference by ownership. Then Rose needs time to let the vision come to life, it will not be instant.

Is Rose up to that task? Will James Dolan give him the autonomy and time to do it right? We’ll find out, starting Sunday.

Kyle Lowry tried to drive through George Hill’s legs. That didn’t work. (VIDEO)

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Milwaukee’s George Hill, a physical 6’3″ defender, was up on Toronto’s Kyle Lowry out on the perimeter. Lowry, pinned, had no good options.

So, Lowry tried to go through Hill’s legs. Not dribble through and run around, Lowry tried to tunnel his way between Hill’s legs.

 

Lowry, at 6-foot even, is not going to pull that off. Maybe against Boban Marjanovic. Maybe.

At least Nick Nurse got a good laugh out of it. He needed it; the rest of the night didn’t go so well for Nurse, Lowry, and the Raptors.

Three Things to Know: Bulls’ Coby White is red hot — and the latest Jim Boylen controversy

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday during the NBA regular season we are here to help you break it all down. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.

1) Bulls’ Coby White is red hot — and latest Jim Boylen controversy. Will Jim Boylen be the coach of the Bulls next season? Current management — the Gar/Pax team — has his back and loves his old-school ways, but that duo has already lost some power (Gar Forman has seen his role reduced) and John Paxson is about to. A new GM (or whatever title) is coming in this summer — talks have started, and there was a lot of buzz about that around All-Star weekend — and you can bet that person will want a say in who coaches his team.

Bulls players are reportedly not Boylen fans. Bulls fans are with the players and there is a long list of grievances from his heavy-handed practices to the odd (read: poor) use of late-game timeouts.

Now add Coby White to that mix.

White, the rookie backup point guard for the Bulls, is on fire. He had consecutive 33-point games coming into Tuesday night, but White’s mentor and former AAU coach, Chris Paul, promised an end to this trend.

That’s not what happened. White dropped 35 on the Thunder, shooting 13-of-21 overall and 6-of-9 from three (in another Chicago loss).

The last Bulls rookie with three 30+ point games in a row? Some guy named Michael Jordan.

As noted by K.C. Johnson at NBC Sports Chicago, White and Zach LaVine have each scored 30-plus points in consecutive games, and the last Bulls’ teammates to do that were Bob Love and Chet Walker in 1969. Beyond the stats, White brings a level of dynamic play and energy to the Bulls nobody else on that roster seems able to.

For the last three games, White and LaVine have formed an electric offensive backcourt. Starting point guard Kris Dunn is out for the season. A lot of people are calling for White to get the call and start games.

So coach Boylen, is it time to make White the starter?

No. Boylen is going to keep White coming off the bench (and play his veterans, in general), rather than move White into the starting lineup.

“I keep getting this question and I’m just going to answer it one more time,” Boylen said. “Coby’s in a good place. We’re going to keep him in a good place. Let’s let Coby keep playing and lets let him keep developing.”

Don’t change what’s working is a good philosophy.

If it’s actually working. Which, in the big picture, is the real question in Chicago.

John Paxson will remain the Bulls president and he fully buys into Boylen’s style. Normally that would mean Boylen is safe, but the ground is shifting in Chicago with front office changes coming. How much they change remains to be seen, but any GM coming needs to have new ideas and bring change — otherwise what’s the point of bringing him in — and that will include on the coaching front. The ground is shifting in Chicago, and that makes it difficult for Boylen to remain standing.

2) Zion Williamson comes to Los Angeles but LeBron James steals the show, drops season-high 40. Zion Williamson made his debut against LeBron and the Lakers — and he did some very Zion things. Like dunk.

And show off the kind of hops where he can grab a rebound away from Dwight Howard.

Despite that, Tuesday night was the LeBron James show — the MVP candidate got whatever he wanted. Wherever he wanted. The results was a season-high 40 points (and a 118-109 Laker win).

Los Angeles has won six in a row and is in control atop the West.

New Orleans is now four-games behind Memphis in the loss column in the chase for the eighth seed — and the right to face the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.

3) Bucks remind everyone they own the East. The Milwaukee Bucks have been the clear best team in the East — rather, the best team in all of basketball — this season. It’s not up for debate. The calendar hasn’t even flipped to March yet and the Bucks have 50 wins.

If you want more evidence, take a look at the Bucks schedule. Last Saturday, Milwaukee dismantled Philadelphia (largely without Ben Simmons, but still).

Then on Tuesday night, on the second night of a back-to-back (and the team’s third game in four days), Milwaukee went into Toronto and took care of a red-hot Raptors team. It was a balanced attack. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 19 points and 19 rebounds (plus eight assists), Khris Middleton had 22 points, Eric Bledsoe had 17, and Brook Lopez had 15 as the NBA-leading Bucks won their fifth straight and 18th of 20.

Antetokounmpo said yes, he was motivated by the fact Toronto is where the Bucks lost in the playoffs last season — you have to love that attitude.

We keep talking ourselves into teams that will challenge the Bucks in the East — right now the Celtics are trendy on that list — but then you watch the Bucks play and realize it is them and then a big gap to everyone else.

Lakers, Dion Waiters reportedly to talk March 2

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It has always been easy to connect the dots that would bring Dion Waiters to the Lakers. Waiters’ former agent is Rob Pelinka, who is now the Lakers’ GM. Waiters’ current agent is Rich Paul, who reps both LeBron James and Anthony Davis. That gets your foot in the door.

After Memphis bought out Waiters, it was rumored he and the Lakers would talk. That is now set to happen on March 2, next week, something Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported Tuesday night on TNT during the Lakers win against New Orleans.

The Lakers have been active in the buyout market — they signed Markieff Morris, who made his debut for the team Tuesday night — looking to add playmaking and shooting. Waiters can shoot — 37.7 percent from three last season and 38.6 percent on catch-and-shoot threes — but is not much of a playmaker (he can put the ball on the floor but only to create for himself). The Lakers need to decide if he’s a fit, they have Avery Bradley and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at the two-guard spot already. Waiters has played a fair amount at the point in Miami, but he’s not the kind of playmaker the Lakers are seeking to go with Rajon Rondo.

Waiters clashed with coaches and management in Miami, but with a strong, LeBron-led locker room culture the Lakers aren’t worried about that impact.

Waiters is available because Miami used his salary to balance out the money in the Justise Winslow to Memphis/Andre Iguodala trade. Memphis did not want a distraction, plus they are deep at the two-guard spot with the just extended Dillon Brooks, De'Anthony Melton, and Grayson Allen. So the Grizzlies waived Waiters, as was expected.

The only question is does he upgrade the Lakers roster?

What we do know is he has the connections to at least get in the building and make his case.