Process behind Sixers’ Nerlens Noel trade as bad as deal itself

Process behind Sixers’ Nerlens Noel trade as bad as deal itself

As recently as December, Bryan Colangelo insisted the Sixers would not trade one of their centers just for the sake of clearing up the logjam in the club’s frontcourt. “I will not make a bad deal for this organization,” the general manager said.

What changed in the past two months?

On Thursday, Colangelo sent Nerlens Noel to the Dallas Mavericks for a conditional first-round draft choice that in all likelihood will become a pair of second-round picks; Justin Anderson, a second-year prospect with nowhere near Noel’s upside; and Andrew Bogut, who may never even wear a Sixers uniform (perhaps the best case scenario, in all honesty). This is an objectively bad deal for the Sixers!

Sure, there are numerous explanations for the disappointing return on Noel. The NBA is well aware the Sixers have too many centers, so Colangelo was bargaining from a position of weakness. The Sacramento Kings didn’t do the Sixers any favors, either, by woefully short-changing themselves in the DeMarcus Cousins swap. And Noel will be a restricted free agent come July, creating the kind of uncertainty that tends to hurt value.

Yet none of those excuses justifies Colangelo’s decision, and the reason is very simple. There was absolutely nothing compelling the Sixers to make this move right now.

If Noel wasn’t gone at the trade deadline, then what? They risked losing him in free agency and winding up with nothing in return.

First, to that argument, the return the Sixers did get on Noel feels like nothing. Even a top-18 protected pick isn’t much of an asset to the franchise at this point, while two seconds are essentially meaningless. Bogut is, too, for that matter. Anderson is not without some promise, although his ceiling probably isn’t as high as Noel’s floor.

Nothing the Sixers accomplished here is going to help the team win a championship.

Of course, the fear that Noel would walk away and leave the Sixers with empty pockets is built on something of a faulty premise to begin with. That was only one potential outcome.

One possibility was also to make an actual attempt to re-sign Noel long-term. Another possibility was matching an offer sheet if those efforts ultimately failed. Another outcome still was a tepid market forcing him to accept the Sixers’ one-year qualifying offer.

By doing literally any of those things, the Sixers could have traded Noel at a later date. Even if Colangelo already determined the 22-year-old was not going to be part of the future, he could have waited to see if a better offer would materialize at a later date.

Any number of components would have changed over time. The Sixers could’ve dumped Jhalil Okafor, creating room in their frontcourt and restoring the organization’s bargaining power in the process. The market would’ve had a chance to reset after the disastrous Cousins trade made moving bigs for any semblance of value next to impossible. By merely holding on to Noel, the Sixers could’ve created the perception they just may want to keep him around, allowing the front office to raise the asking price.

An injury to a key player could've driven up Noel's value for a desperate team. His own development might've made him a more attractive piece around the league. Who knows, maybe Colangelo would've come to appreciate Noel's role with the Sixers in the meantime — just saying.

Would there be risks involved with that approach?

Not any greater than the risk of getting fleeced.

There’s little doubt that if Noel went on to sign an offer sheet in July and the Sixers didn’t match, the organization would be facing backlash as a result of that turn of events as well. While it’s a little difficult to accept that could’ve transpired, we can’t pretend the scenario didn’t exist.

Regardless, trading Noel for this package feels like a give-up move on the part of Colangelo. It seems like exactly the thing he promised he wouldn’t do, which was move one of the Sixers’ centers purely because they have too many.

To make matters worse, the timing of all of this suggests Colangelo allowed the trade deadline and Noel’s status as an impending restricted free agent to dictate his decision-making, which is a sin far greater than simply making a bad deal.

That’s the sign of a bad process.

DeSean Jackson is playing the Eagles against the NFL

DeSean Jackson is playing the Eagles against the NFL

The Eagles sure could use a wide receiver, and DeSean Jackson is a free agent. Jackson even said it himself in an interview that ran on Tuesday: a reunion with the Eagles would be a good story.

Or perhaps a story that's almost too good to be true.

Don't get me wrong, Jackson could very well wind up back in an Eagles uniform once everything is said and done. He can become a free agent in March. There's an obvious need at wide receiver. Jackson never wanted to leave Philadelphia in the first place, and the person responsible for that — Chip Kelly — is long gone. It makes perfect sense.

So much sense, Jackson can use what is considered common knowledge around the NFL for leverage in contract negotiations with 31 other teams.

Jackson is a smart, calculating guy, especially when it comes to business. He doesn't even have to say he wants to play for the Eagles for people to presume the interest is there, and more to the point, he hasn't.

When a bunch of Philly reporters pressed Jackson about his impending free agency in October, he said there were no hard feelings with the Eagles. When confronted again in December, the three-time Pro Bowler responded that you never know what can happen. On Tuesday, Jackson flat out admitted he's thought about a potential return — while describing talk of it as "a lot of speculation."

There are reports the Eagles will pursue Jackson should he hit the market on March 9. The 30-year-old speedster will be happy to field their call.

Along with the rest of the calls he'll get from around the league.

Unlike the Eagles, Jackson has come right out and said he wants to remain in Washington, and as recently as two weeks ago. Whether the interest is mutual on the Redskins' part remains to be seen, particularly at Jackson's contract demands, but that's a lot stronger than any suggestion he's made to the contrary.

Another report emerged on Tuesday that indicates the Buccaneers are a potential landing spot for Jackson as well, citing a pre-existing rapport with quarterback Jameis Winston. In other words, at the very least, there are more teams competing for his services.

Philadelphia, Washington, Tampa Bay, the West Coast, wherever — this is ultimately going to come down to which one can or is willing to make the most attractive offer.

That might be strike one against the Eagles already. They don't have a great deal of room to maneuver under the salary cap as of now, and while additional money could become available, signing Jackson for around $10 million per year or more would be a strain no matter what.

Keep in mind, Jackson is simply answering the questions he's asked about the Eagles. He's not running around from one media outlet to the other trying to create a market there. And in all honesty, his answers have been lukewarm at best, essentially amounting to, Sure, I'll listen if the Eagles call. Why not?

In the meantime, that puts the rest of the NFL on notice. The Eagles can be very competitive in free agency when they choose to be, and if they really want Jackson — and there are people in high-ranking places that probably wouldn't mind that — they will be players. Even if the Eagles have no serious intention of chasing Jackson, the perception is out there.

Jackson certainly understands that, and he hasn't had to put much effort into keeping the fire burning. He's more or less let the flames fan themselves.

Ultimately, Jackson to the Eagles isn't the least bit unlikely. Yet the idea that he's going to show the club any more deference than another doesn't seem quite as plausible when his comments, this entire situation are placed under the microscope.

Words are cheap. Signing Jackson, on the other hand, will not be. Not for the Eagles. Not for anybody. Not while he's expertly pitting his suitors against one another in the DeSean Jackson Sweepstakes.

The winner isn't going to be based on sentimental favorite or nostalgia. It's who's going to make the best deal for Jackson.

Does the Sixers' injury reporting really matter?

Does the Sixers' injury reporting really matter?

When the Sixers finally revealed Joel Embiid had a "slight" tear of his meniscus, I wasn't surprised. After he suited up for only one game over the previous three weeks, it was reasonable to assume whatever the 22-year-old was dealing with was a little more significant than a "bruised knee."

What I wasn't really prepared for was the reaction to the news (although you'd think I would know what was coming by now). Apparently, the Sixers' lack of transparency with regard to Embiid is some kind of travesty, as if never before in the history of sports has a club attempted to cover up an injury.

Keep in mind, it's not like Embiid requires surgery. A torn meniscus should not be career threatening. There's no evidence the injury is in any way directly related to the foot injury that kept him out for two full seasons. And based on the decision to allow him to play in a nationally televised game against the Rockets just one week after receiving the diagnosis, Embiid presumably would be on the floor for the Sixers if they were, say, in the NBA Finals right now.

Embiid is hurt. Enough to keep him out of action for the better part of a month, which might seem major — yet even then, how much of that is because the Sixers are being overly precautious with one of their most precious assets? Regardless, how does knowing it's a meniscus and not a bone bruise honestly change things for the public?

Other than perception, maybe, it doesn't. Embiid is out until further notice. Whether it's a meniscus, a bruise or a stubbed toe, he's returning at the same time — whenever the Sixers say he is.

Was it messed up for Sixers general manager Bryan Colangelo to claim he was being completely forthright one day before the story about Embiid's meniscus came out? Sure. He was caught in a lie, and no one likes a liar.

But what difference would it have made if Colangelo disclosed the exact nature of Embiid's injury from the very beginning? Would it alter the timetable for his return, which to the best of my knowledge is week-to-week? Better yet, would it speed up the recovery time? Please enlighten me, outside of avoiding a public relations nightmare, what do the Sixers or their fans truly gain from being forthright here?

The one thing that's clear is Embiid's health is prioritized above all else. While he was out all of last season to have a second operation on his foot, the Sixers became a national embarrassment, nearly setting an NBA record for ineptitude. The previous general manager, Sam Hinkie, essentially lost his job because of the patience the organization showed with the recovery. Even in 2017, Embiid is on a minutes and games restriction that many armchair doctors deem unnecessary, and it's probably cost the team wins.

Whatever specifically is wrong with Embiid's knee or any other part of his body, you can believe the Sixers are doing whatever it takes to get it right, no matter how long it takes.

Granted, I'm not entirely sure what the Sixers have to gain by hiding information about Embiid's injury from the public. Maybe they're worried that intel gives opponents a competitive advantage. Maybe the concern is it will affect ticket sales.

Maybe it's an issue of perception. Bone bruise doesn't stoke fears quite like a torn meniscus, which often does require surgery. This tremendous, young athlete has already missed two full seasons and is injured again despite having his playing time seriously monitored and restricted, which can be kind of scary. The Sixers might prefer their handling of Embiid's health isn't questioned, either.

Whatever the case, the front office didn't feel the need to share, and in this particular instance, I don't much care. While it might set a bad precedent, our town's excellent sports media getting to the bottom of this story should make Colangelo think twice about trying to pull a fast one again.

Yet nothing else has changed since we learned the details about Embiid's injury. There was no meaningfully different treatment we weren't aware of. His outlook for making a full recovery hasn't changed.

Embiid is still out, and not returning any sooner or later than before, so just wake me when he gets back.