Report: 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie reneged on promise to release Andrei Kirilenko
Update: Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
This likely explains how the 76ers got an extra roster spot to acquire Jared Cunningham.
The Nets traded Andrei Kirilenko, because they didn’t want to pay him or the amount he increased their luxury-tax bill. The 76ers took him, because they’re far enough below the salary floor that his salary contributes to dollars they’d have to spend anyway, and they got a draft pick from Brooklyn for their trouble.
Those are the details, in simplest terms, that motivated the deal.
It has gotten much more complicated since.
A family issue has reportedly kept Kirilenko in the New York area. The 76ers want him to report, but he has yet to do so.
Some are blaming Philadelphia general manager Sam Hinkie for the stalemate.Bob Ford of The Inquirer:
According to two sources with inside knowledge of the negotiations, the Sixers had agreed to release veteran forward Andrei Kirilenko after the trade was consummated, but did not follow through on that handshake deal. Kirilenko, who played only seven games with the Nets this season, remains on the Sixers roster but has refused to join the team despite a request to do so.
“He might have an IQ of 150, but [Hinkie] doesn’t seem to realize you have to deal with these people over and over,” one league source said.
Could Hinkie have misinterpreted or misunderstood the alleged agreement with the Nets, who wanted to satisfy the desire of Kirilenko - a favorite of Russian team owner Mikhail Prokhorov - to become a free agent?
“No,” said another source. “I think he started thinking he can just hold onto him and use him at the trade deadline in a package to get something.”
Nets general manager Billy King and Hinkie both declined to comment on the record for this story, but a Sixers team source disputed the allegation.
“We made the trade to get the draft pick and in hopes [Kirilenko] might play for us,” the Sixers source said. "[Releasing him] was not a condition of the trade, but I have no idea what was said to him on the other end.”
The 76ers waived a physical as condition of the trade, according to Ford, a clear sign they’re not too concerned about Kirilenko playing for them. That, and every other move Hinkie has made, indicates this trade was about the financials, not Kirilenko as a player.
Kirilenko’s contract could be useful to facilitating another deal before the deadline, and I can see why the 76ers would strategically want to hold it until then. Heck, there’s no reason they wouldn’t also hope Kirilenko plays, exceeds expectations and somehow fetches an asset for what he can do on the court.
I’m confused why anyone cares whether the 76ers release Kirilenko now. If a family matter is keeping Kirilenko in New York – before the trade, Kirilenko was available only for Nets home games – what is he going to do as a free agent? League rules prevent him from signing with the Nets. Does he want to sign with the Knicks? As Phil Jackson dismantles his team, what use would they have for a 33-year-old?
Kirilenko’s absence is reportedly due to his wife’s pregnancy, so I suppose he just wants to ensure he has his options open if he returns later in the season. But if the 76ers don’t flip Kirilenko, I can’t see why they wouldn’t be willing to release him after the trade deadline. And if a team trades for Kirilenko, it will either be:
- for his contract to make salaries match, and that team can release him.
- for his playing ability, and there probably aren’t any of those. But if there is, Kirilenko joining that squad wouldn’t be so bad on his end.
In the meantime, Kirilenko’s status with Philadelphia is unclear.
The 76ers’ trade for Jared Cunningham gave them 16 players. Though they waived Cunningham, they still temporarily exceed the typical limit of 15 players.
Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said a hardship granted the 76ers the extra roster spot. Without four injured players who’ve missed three straight games (only Jason Richardson, Joel Embiid and Hollis Thompson have), Philadelphia wouldn’t have qualified through the method discussed here. It’s possible the 76ers or NBA has quietly suspended Kirilenko for failing to report, and if he’s on the suspended list, he wouldn’t count toward the active or inactive lists.
NBA by-laws also allow teams to exceed roster maximums in the event of “extreme hardship” if a majority of the Board of Governors allows it.
Given how people are talking about Hinkie, though, I doubt other teams are rushing to help the 76ers. Ford:
There is a perception in some corners that Hinkie is unqualified to run a team, because he lacks the necessary interpersonal skills. It’s a fair concern, but I’m not qualified to say whether it’s fairly applied to Hinkie.
I like the rebuilding approach he has taken, and I think the 76ers have a bright future once they finish tanking. Hinkie deserves a chance to see this process through.
But as long as he remains general manager, these shots at him will continue. He’s a threat to the old guard that dislikes his analytical approach.
And like I said, the concern is fair. People skills are important to being a general manager.
But, in this case with Kirilenko, I don’t see enough evidence to convict Hinkie of wrongdoing.