When the Philadelphia 76ers traded for Andrei Kirilenko the buzz was they would instantly cut him loose. This is a guy who, due to a family situation, didn’t want to leave the New York area (he would only play for the Nets during home games), so there was no real way for him to play for Philly. The rumor was GM Sam Hinkie told Kirilenko he’d be waived.
Instead the Sixers kept him on the roster. Most assumed they just kept the salary around as potential trade bait as the deadline approached, but Kirilenko remains a Sixers.
Now the Sixers have suspended Kirilenko for failure to report to the team. Coach Brett Brown told Dei Lynam of CSNPhilly.com that the reports the Sixers planned to cut Kirilenko were always false.
“I hear the stories,” Brown said. “It was explained to me very aggressively and clearly. Andrei had a chance to play for me and us. I got excited because I had coached against Andrei in two Olympic games. We have mutual international friends, Tony Parker among them.
“I sat down with him and had coffee with him the last time we were here. I wanted to get in his head and see what he was thinking. I went through that exercise and got excited. I wanted him to share his wealth of knowledge with the team along with Luc [Mbah a Moute]. That we always intended to release him — that is not accurate.”
I find it difficult to believe that Brown actually believed Kirilenko would play for the Sixers. He knows the personal situation.
What seems more accurate to me is that the Sixers couldn’t make the Jared Cunningham trade with the Clippers because they had 15 guys on the roster, however if you suspend a guy then the league grants you an extra roster spot. That let the Sixers make the trade (they then waived Cunningham). I believe Kirilenko is still a Sixer only because his contract might be useful in another deal.
I do know a lot of agents have taken note of how Sixers GM Sam Hinkie handled this situation.