51Q: How long will 76ers owner stay patient rebuilding?

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PBT is previewing the 2015-16 NBA season by tackling 51 big questions that we can’t wait to see answered once play tips off. We will answer one a day right up to the start of the season Oct. 27. Today’s question:

How much longer will Philadelphia 76ers ownership be okay with this rebuilding process?

Trust the process.

That’s been the mantra in Philadelphia as they have taken the “get bad to get good” rebuilding method to an extreme no other team has attempted. The Sixers won 19 games two seasons ago, 18 last season, and they are widely expected to be once again one of the worst teams in the NBA in 2015-16.

Don’t get me wrong, the Sixers should be better this season — Jahlil Okafor is the kind of franchise cornerstone player that GM Sam Hinkie has been looking for, but he is still a rookie and showed in Summer League he has some work to do. Last season coach Brett Brown built a good defensive mindset around Nerlens Noel in the paint and the Sixers were 12th in the NBA in defensive rating and that should continue. Other young players for the Sixers — such as Robert Covington and Nik Stauskas — should show some improvement and progression.

Still, this is going to be a bad team. The playoffs are about as likely as building a colony on Mars by next April. Even something like the 30-win barrier seems impossible to clear.

Trust the process.

The Sixers will head into the 2016 NBA draft with as many as four first-round picks: Theirs, the Lakers (top three protected), the Heat’s (top 10 protected), and the Thunder’s (lottery protected). They still have Dario Saric stashed overseas — he showed a little promise but looked a bit raw at EuroBasket — and he is expected to come over next summer. Plus they have Joel Embiid, who was a top three pick and highly rated, but who is about to miss his second full season due to a second foot surgery (never a good sign with big men).

How Sam Hinkie and the Sixers have gone about building this roster rubs a lot of people in a competitive NBA the wrong way, but no doubt they have the potential if they draft well — or use those draft assets well in trades — to build a quality roster. It’s just going to take more time.

The real question for the Sixers is this:

How much longer will owner Joshua Harris trust the process?

Owners are notoriously impatient — in no other aspect of their business life do they sit on the sidelines and suffer short-term losses for long-term profits for very long (if at all). To his credit Harris has been patient. He bought in from the start on the Hinkie plan and has stayed out of his way. But it’s fair to ask after a third straight ugly season ends next April for the Sixers, will he continue to be that patient?

A lot of it likely comes down to progress shown — this season do we see a step forward for the Sixers? With Okafor in the paint (despite a lack of good point guards to feed him the rock), does their offense improve from an abomination in the eyes of the Lord to just plain bad? Does Brown’s defensive culture continue to take root?

Can Harris and the rest of us see the foundation for future success starting to solidify?

If so, and if the Sixers can draft well in 2016 (or at least appear to, it’s always hard to judge a class until a few years out), then there is good reason to stick with the plan. But starting now there needs to be some tangible annual improvement — by 2017-18 this needs to be a team over .500 that makes the playoffs (or is at least close, if the East improves). That’s still a couple years away, but it would be the fifth year of this rebuilding effort and a reasonable target considering how far the Sixers have to go.

Hinkie can’t use a perpetual rebuild for perpetual job security forever — at some point there needs to be real, tangible progress. That needs to start this season, even if it only slightly registers in the win column.

If not, he could find himself dealing with an impatient owner.

Report: NBA opened investigation into free agency tampering

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Summer in the NBA is always the most interesting time in the league. Free agency lets us see where players have not only decided to land, but which have schemed together in order to play with each other.

The term “preagency” has been coined to mark the period in which teams and players work out deals before free agency officially opens, and well before the moratorium ends.

It’s been thought that these rules have been circumvented as part of a gentlemen’s agreement between all teams with equal ability to navigate around the written rules. But according to a new report, several team owners are upset about the way things are going in the player empowerment era.

ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst reported on the NBA’s Board of Governor’s meeting this week, saying that the league has even opened an investigation into what went on this summer in terms of potential tampering.

Via ESPN:

Within days, the league opened an investigation centered on the timing of some of the earliest reported free-agency deals on June 30, sources familiar with the matter told ESPN.com. The scope of that investigation is developing. It is expected to include interviews with players and possibly agents and team employees, sources say.

The league has the power to punish teams it finds to be guilty of tampering ahead of June 30 at 6 p.m. Eastern Time — the first minute that teams are allowed to speak with representatives of free agents. It also might seek information on the timing of negotiations so that any revised free-agency calendar might better align with what is actually happening.

The investigation followed a tense owners meeting, which multiple sources described to ESPN. Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan, speaking as the head of the labor committee, discussed the possible need to revisit free-agency rules in the next collective bargaining agreement, sources said.

I have two thoughts about this.

First, even if something does come of this, the fine has to be puny. Adam Silver has not strayed on the disciplinarian side the way David Stern did — much to his credit — and any reprimand is unlikely to satisfy upset parties.

Second, there will definitely be sweeping changes in the next CBA. So much has changed since the last lockout, and the money has gotten so big it’s inevitable that people want to make things better for their side. The players got themselves in a hole since 2011. They mishandled the cap jump in 2016, and the max contract rules didn’t create a rising tide that floated all boats. Star players benefited, but low-level guys are even more disproportionately compensated.

This stuff seems like the most boring part of the league, but in reality it’s what makes everything tick.

I won’t be surprised if the NBA levies tampering charges against one or even several teams. I’d be surprised if the league did much about it, though.

Wizards owner says John Wall ‘probably won’t play’ in 2019-20

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It was always likely that Washington Wizards star John Wall would be out for much of next year’s regular NBA season. The team has even filed for a disabled player exception for the 2019-20 season.

Now we have confirmation that the team is expecting Wall to miss significant time.

According to NBC Sports Washington’s Chase Hughes, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has said that they are going to take things slow with Wall, and that he will miss serious time.

Via Twitter:

Washington is still trying to figure out what to do with Bradley Beal, and with Wall’s contract on the books, they don’t really have much of anywhere to go. The Wizards used their No. 9 overall pick on Rui Hachimura, which raised a few eyebrows.

But the team at least does have a GM in Tommy Sheppard, and they’ve made several hirings in the front office to try and out-think their competition. Washington has made a few moves, including trading for Davis Bertans and signing Isaiah Thomas.

Expect to see the Wizards at the bottom of the East next year. Still, that doesn’t mean they won’t be entertaining.

Is FIBA’s decision to move World Cup to year before Olympics reason for USA drop outs?

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FIBA made a mess of World Cup qualifying moving the games from the summer to during the season for the NBA and all the major European leagues. The USA qualified thanks to a team of G-League players coached by Jeff Van Gundy, but the process was not pretty. For anyone.

Now it could be another FIBA decision that has led to the rash of stars — James Harden, Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, and others — deciding not to play for Team USA this summer.

Traditionally, the FIBA World Cup took place every four years, on the even-numbered year between Summer Olympic cycles. For example, the last World Cup was 2014, the Rio Olympics were 2016 with the Tokyo games in 2020. However, FIBA pushed this World Cup back a year to 2019 (instead of 2018) and that has changed the calculus for players, something Michael Lee of The Athletic speculated about.

For American players, the Olympics are the bigger draw, when more people watch. We grew up with the Dream Team at the Olympics, not the World Championships. That means if players have to choose, despite the allure of the Chinese market, they will choose the Olympics next year.

The other factor: The NBA feels wide open, with as many as eight teams heading into the season believing they can win the title. A lot of those contending teams have new players, which is leading players to prioritize club over country this time around.

This is different from 2004, when the NBA’s top players stayed home from the Athens Olympics because of a combination of terrorist concerns and players not liking coach Larry Brown. Today’s players love Gregg Popovich, but other concerns are weighing on them more.

It has left team USA without the biggest stars of the game — Kemba Walker is the only All-NBA player on the roster — but USA Basketball has such a depth of talent that they are still the World Cup favorites. The margin for error just got a lot smaller, however.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was working on jump shot with Kyle Korver (VIDEO)

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Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s jumper is getting better. Last season after the All-Star break he shot 31.5 percent from three (up from 22.3 before the ASG) and in the playoffs that jumped to 32.7 percent. He struggled on catch-and-shoot threes in those final 19 games after the ASG, shooting just 16.7 percent, but off the bounce he shot 33.8 percent after the break. Also, all of last season he didn’t take many long twos, but when he did he shot 41 percent on them.

What would make his jumper better? Working on his shot with the newest Buck, Kyle Korver.

Which is happening.

Be afraid NBA. Be very afraid.

Antetokounmpo recently said he is only at about 60 percent of his potential. If he can start to consistently hit threes off the bounce when defenses sag back off the pick-and-roll (trying to take away his drives), he might become unstoppable. Or, more unstoppable. If that’s a thing.