First came D’Angelo Russell missing a workout with the Sixers because he was “sick.” Clearly this was him trying to avoid going to Philadelphia… until he showed up for a rescheduled workout and killed it.
Then came the report that Russell doesn’t want to play in Philadelphia.
You had to know the counter to that report was coming, and it did from an incredibly reliable source — Jonathan Givony of Draft Express.
I know most fans in Philly want to see the team draft Russell because the impressive point guard out of Ohio State — a guy who can score but also has great court vision and passing skills — fits well on paper with a front line of Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid and, eventually, Dario Saric. I also know that having Sam Hinkie as your GM means a flood of rumors and reports, including reliable ones that Hinkie is seriously considering drafting seven-foot, sweet-shooting Euro Kristaps Porzingis.
As for the Russell rumors…
Two outside forces are at play here. First, the New York Knicks would love Russell to fall to them — if that happens, they keep the pick and take him. (The Knicks also would love Jahlil Okafor to fall to them, that’s not happening.) So if the Knicks can float rumors that make it less likely Philly takes Russell, why wouldn’t they do it? Second, Russell’s agent knows the marketing potential of his client landing in NYC, and he’d be far from the first agent to try and steer his client toward a major market in the draft.
All that said, none of it matters — if Hinkie and the Sixers decide Russell is their man, they can take him, and he basically has to play there. This isn’t the NFL where a top draft pick can Eli Manning his way to New York. If the Sixers draft Russell, he’ll go (unless he wants to sit out all basketball for a year, re-enter the draft, and then again be at the mercy of franchises he may not wish to play for).
The ball is in the Sixers court; they just may take that ball and go play in Europe.