Here’s a brief message that some Sixers fans can use right now: relax.
Remember that you have a team with two budding superstars that reached the Eastern Conference semifinals just last season and should only be headed upward from here.
Sure, there’s going to be some level of disappointment when Brett Brown proclaimed the Sixers were going “star hunting” this summer only to come up empty on the free-agent market outside of re-signing their own players.
But, more than anything, how things transpired for the Sixers over the past few weeks should let you know that much more goes into landing a free agent than simply basketball.
Look at the first major domino to fall in free agency, Paul George. The five-time All-Star didn’t hesitate to make his decision and announced he was rejoining the Oklahoma City Thunder at a Russell Westbrook party shortly after midnight on July 1.
Despite the Sixers being in the mix for George, the Thunder always had the upper hand. The Thunder had George in the fold for a full year after acquiring him from Indiana last summer and used every day to convince him OKC was the right place to move forward.
“They honestly check the boxes where I needed those boxes to be checked from what a player wants and needs out of a front office, out of a medical group, out of teammates, out of coaching staff,” George said during exit interviews. “I mean, honestly, they can't say it anymore [than] that. They checked the boxes on what needs to be checked.”
Even with George on the market, the Sixers always had their top focus on the biggest available fish in the game: LeBron James. They even secured a meeting with James’ camp, albeit only with agent Rich Paul and not the three-time champion himself.
Still, the Sixers, with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid leading the way, were serious contenders for James as Paul confirmed.
"The teams that he looked at, he looked at for guys like Ben Simmons,” Paul, who is also Simmons’ agent, said on NBA TV during a summer league game. “There's a reason why he looked at Philadelphia, but ultimately he chose the Lakers.”
And what ultimately made James join the Lakers, no matter what his representatives say to the contrary, had little to do with basketball. James has turned himself into an entertainment mogul, so who better to learn from than Magic Johnson?
After all, King James reportedly already had dinner in Los Angeles last week with Al Pacino and Leonardo DiCaprio.
We all love Philadelphia, but those types of Hollywood power brokers aren’t exactly making reservations for restaurants on Broad Street.
So the Sixers swung and missed on George for familiarity and James for off-court opportunities.
Perhaps you can swallow missing out on two of the game’s best players, but now role players are spurning the franchise too? That’s enough to push a Sixers fan over the edge … until you dig a little bit deeper.
Nemanja Bjelica had his qualifying offer with the Minnesota Timberwolves rescinded and immediately jumped to the best situation for him when he reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with the Sixers.
However, Bjelica informed the team he was backing out of the deal and returning to Europe. That was until fellow Serbian and Kings general manager, Vlade Divac, came calling. Now the two sides are apparently deep in discussion on a multi-year contract.
Once you push through the initial wave of confusion, you find out that Bjelica simply didn’t want to move his family to Philadelphia for a year and be back on the hunt next summer. He was seeking what most of us do in a new job, which is stability.
While that may seem a bit unreasonable for an NBA reserve big man, you can’t blame a guy for trying. And now it appears he may find some of what he desired in Sacramento.
Back here in Philadelphia, the Sixers are surely second-guessing what happened to their star hunt this offseason. While it came up empty-handed, the Sixers — and their fans — have to understand that so much more factors into securing a free agent than what actually takes place on the court and is not a red flag on the franchise.
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