Opinion: Adam Silver is accountable for Colangelo debacle

By: Jesse Larch, Sports Talk Philly editor 

Let me begin this by saying that of the four major sports in North America, I believe that Adam Silver is the best of the commissioners. I admire his steadfastness and ability to confidently and swiftly resolve the issues that arise for him and the National Basketball Association. 

As much as I like Adam Silver, that does not mean that he is without flaw, and now one of the few mistakes that he has made as the league's commissioner is blossoming into an ugly situation for the Philadelphia 76ers. 

That situation, of course, is the mystery of Bryan Colangelo's burner twitter accounts which has captured the attention of the NBA world just out of the pure craziness surrounding the story. 

Colangelo is connected to Silver very closely. After all, it was Silver who is responsible for the installation of Bryan and his father Jerry into roles within the Sixers organization. 

Silver was frustrated with the direction of the Sixers franchise, as Process pioneer Sam Hinkie executed an extreme rebuild designed to cultivate a program with sustained winning by first purging the roster and being uncompetitive in order to guarantee that young talent would be available to the team through the draft. 

Silver took multiple measures to stop the Sixers from "tanking," including supporting ideas for reform to the NBA Draft lottery. His most direct measure was to force the Sixers to hire Jerry Colangelo – a known ally of Silver – as a special advisor. 

Colangelo promptly "advised" the Sixers to add his son Bryan to the fold as the team's president of basketball operations. 

The junior Colangelo has not performed poorly in his role with the organization, although some fans would love to tell you otherwise. His moves to bring in Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova turned the team into a viable contender in the Eastern Conference in the eyes of many pundits and his decision to trade up for Markelle Fultz was heralded before Fultz fell victim to a scapular imbalance that nobody could have predicted. 

The problem with Colangelo is not with his job performance, but with the recent scandal involving Colangelo and fake twitter accounts. The scandal is likely to have major implications on the Sixers franchise, from their ability to attract free agents to the ability to retain their own players after they have been criticized on these accounts – which likely belong to Bryan Colangelo's wife. 

This is a situation with the potential to undo all of the progress that the Sixers had made in the course of their lengthy rebuild. The team has collected a stable of exciting young talent, which now may be estranged from the front office. The rebuild also included a purging of salary that has given the Sixers financial flexibility to pursue any free agent that they want. 

The issue is that the optics of the Colangelo scandal have the potential to return the Sixers to their laughingstock status that they were relegated to in the early days of the process. 

While the core perpetrator in this is Colangelo, he is not the only person who deserves blame. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver should be forced to answer for this as well. 

After all, it was Silver who forced the Sixers into a relationship with the Colangelos because of his own personal vendetta against Sam Hinkie and the organization's long term strategy – which worked by the way. 

If not for an intervention that Silver felt was necessary, the Sixers would not be in this current situation. It may be unfair to hold Silver accountable for something that happened two years later, and is frankly so out of the ordinary that it would have been hard to predict, but as the commissioner of the league, his decision making needs to be iron-clad and his foresight needs to be without error. 

When Silver made the decision to disrupt one of his league's franchises, he put himself on the hook. Honestly, I had issue at first with his decision to intervene with the Sixers operation, but after two years of Colangelo I settled down and became at peace with it. Hinkie was needed to jumpstart the rebuild, and Silver could not sit idly by and watch a team reduce the competitive spirit of his league. Colangelo entered and made decisions that helped guide the Sixers progression, culminating in this past season's 52-win squad. 

The decision to install the Colangelo's worked for all intents and purposes, but now it has placed the Sixers in a position that is unprecedented. The pressure on the Sixers organization to right what is now the Commissioner's wrong has mounted since the moment Ben Detrick's story was published. 

The greatest irony of the whole scenario is that Silver is aggravated with the Sixers organization because the scandal has overshadowed the NBA Finals. "From the league standpoint, here we are, Game 1 of the Finals, it's not necessarily something we want to be talking about," Silver said.

Call it karma, but Silver's decision to initiate an upheaval in the Sixers organization is now biting him where the sun doesn't shine as the NBA Finals has failed to draw the appropriate attention from the media due to the overall ridiculousness of the situation surrounding the Sixers and his handpicked agents. 

Silver's role in the situation does not stop there, however. Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann wrote that the Sixers could be forced to forfeit their draft picks, in addition to other punishments. The decision to do so is at none other than Silver's discretion:

First, Article 35A of the constitution would authorize Silver to suspend Colangelo for any length of time and/or fine him up to $1 million. Such a punishment would be appropriate if Silver concluded that Colangelo engaged in “conduct prejudicial or detrimental to the Association.” Second, Silver could refer to Article 24, which contains the “best interests of the NBA” provision. It expresses that the commissioner is “charged with protecting the integrity of the game of professional basketball and preserving public confidence in the League.” The best interests’ provision makes clear that “when a situation arises which is not covered in the Constitution and By-Laws, the Commissioner shall have the authority to make such decisions, including the imposition of a penalty, as in his judgment shall be in the best interests of the Association.” Article 24 authorizes a suspension of any length, a fine of up to $2.5 million and the forfeiture of draft picks.

To summarize, Adam Silver could strip the Sixers of their draft picks because of the actions of a man that Adam Silver forced into the Sixers organization if he deems that the situation is detrimental to the league. 

At the start of last week the Sixers were perhaps the most exciting team in the NBA. They had an elite center in Joel Embiid, a generational talent in Ben Simmons, another potential franchise player in Markelle Fultz, an NBA all-defense first team honoree in Robert Covington, a young stretch four who compliments all of the aforementioned players beautifully in Dario Saric, a plethora of draft assets, and the financial flexibility to add any player that they desired. 

Now all of that potential has been threatened because the commissioner of the NBA did not agree with the team's practices, the same practices that resulted in the Sixers becoming one of the NBA's most promising teams. 

A Sixers offseason that was poised to vault the Sixers into the conversation as the NBA's most dangerous roster is now in major jeopardy with public perceptions of the team becoming worse and worse by the day. Even if the team is being thorough, the damage is already done, as one executive claimed. That was made clear when LeBron James, who is on a self-admitted social media hiatus for the playoffs and just so happens to be the most likely target of the Sixers, used the Colangelo scndal as the butt of a joke during his media availability ahead of game two of the NBA Finals. 

At this point, even a separation from Colangelo – which is likely – will have an impact on the franchise. The franchise has been forced into a lose-lose situation. They either stay with the Colangelo, the NBA's company man and a man who has the trust of no one, or they dismiss Colangelo and are forced to hire their third general manager in four seasons. 

Before Silver got involved with the Sixers they had clear direction, whether he agreed with it or not. Now his involvement has had a hand in undoing all of the progress that the Sixers have made. 

He is not solely responsible, but Adam Silver needs to accept some accountability. 

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