A full week has elapsed since we first learned about Collargate – the dark-comedy scandal involving Sixers GM Bryan Colangelo and the five secret Twitter accounts. It took less time for the local basketball franchise to be regarded as a laughingstock.
LeBron James, of all people, drove home the point. At a news conference Saturday, King James was asked if he was aware of a series of tweets from Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert assessing his own team.
“No,” said LeBron. “I’m not on social media right now, so I was not aware of that.”
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Pause. Smile. . .
“But if was his account though, right? Ba-dum-tsss.”
That last sound was LeBron imitating a drum’s rim shot for emphasis. But his audience of NBA insiders didn’t need the prompt. They chortled mightily at his veiled reference to the ineptitude coming out of Philadelphia.
And that’s what it has come to. A few weeks ago, the 76ers were considered a rising franchise, with two young cornerstones, a 52-win season and the chance to add the biggest available stars this summer.
Suddenly, they are a punchline.
It’s their own fault, as usual. Soon after the blockbuster The Ringer piece broke last Monday, the Sixers issued a terse statement declaring an independent inquiry was underway. Since then, nothing. No peep from anyone in the front office. Colangelo has not been fired, nor resigned, nor even taken a temporary leave. His name was on the release last week announcing head coach Brett Brown’s contract extension.
The longer the Sixers wait to act, of course, the more this becomes perceived as an organizational problem, rather than just one guy’s paranoia. As they dither, the clock ticks down, with the NBA draft and free agency quickly approaching.
We shouldn’t be surprised, really. Sixers ownership has been a clown car of embarrassments since private equity prince Josh Harris and his partners bought the franchise for $280 million in 2011. They’ve been through a parade of CEOs and GMs, tanked three-plus seasons and then fired the architect of that plan just as it turned the corner, and got caught lying multiple times about player injuries.
This is an ownership group that once pushed aside its own PA announcer, held a contest to replace him – and then hired back the same guy. The same jokers who ran a mascot competition, learned the fans hated all three choices, and then pretended the whole thing never happened.
Harris and his private-equity pals know how to make money, but they don’t know Philadelphia. If they did, they wouldn’t also own the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, a top-three rival of the local hockey squad.
You can argue that these owners are carpetbaggers, who’ll eventually flip the Sixers to the next rich guy. Or you can argue that they’re dilettantes who enjoy rubbing shoulders at games with celebs like Meek Mill and M. Night Shyamalan.
What you can’t argue is that sitting on the Colangelo decision for a week is anything but dumb.
Whether Bryan, his wife, or some magical hacker authored the offending tweets doesn’t much matter now. This has become less of a legal matter and more one of whether the business can successfully move forward. The only question is whether the scandal has rendered Colangelo completely ineffectual.
And the answer is obvious. LeBron gave it to you Saturday night – with a joke and a rim shot.