Sixers' strange courtship of Andrew Wiggins

Sixers' strange courtship of Andrew Wiggins
June 17, 2014, 5:15 pm
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Andrew Wiggins makes a hasty exit from a backdoor at the Sixers' practice gym on Tuesday. (CSN)

It began with donuts. And an apology.

Andrew Wiggins was in town the last two days. You might have seen the video of him arriving at the airport. The Kansas small forward figures to be among the top three picks in the upcoming draft. Quite a few people around here want him to land with the Sixers. And so the media tried to track him down.

Wiggins was at PCOM on Monday. So were a handful of reporters. At some point, campus security and a Philadelphia police officer asked the media to leave (see story). Something about it being private property, even though that same group of reporters is there all the time for various reasons. Ah well. Get off their lawn, kids.

That didn’t go over well. The WIP morning show spent Tuesday hammering away at Sam Hinkie and the Sixers. The morning crew called for Hinkie to make himself available and for the PR director to be fired. That didn’t happen.

Tuesday morning, after the media reconvened at PCOM and took another crack at talking to Wiggins -– he was scheduled for his official workout -- the Sixers dispatched an emissary. He said there was a miscommunication. He said PCOM security acted without the Sixers’ knowledge. He said the Sixers didn’t know the media had been asked to leave. He said, essentially, that no one ordered the code red.

And he brought donuts.

The upshot, according to the Sixers, was that Hinkie didn’t know anything about any of that. Believe it or don’t. I think it’s probably true. Hinkie is a numbers wonk and a basketball savant. Who is or isn’t standing outside the practice court isn’t generally on his list of things to observe or care about. Which doesn’t mean these last few days weren’t bizarre.

Our obsession with Wiggins -- and by ours, I mean the media and hardcore hoops heads -- has grown exponentially of late. On Monday evening, Wiggins had dinner with Hinkie at Barclay Prime. When they sat down, I got several text messages from people alerting me to that fact -– some of whom I work with, some of whom were also eating at the restaurant (coincidentally), some of whom saw it on Twitter. All of whom wanted to know what it means and whether the Sixers are pushing hard for Wiggins. Even if you don’t care about any of the scene stuff -– if you shrug about reporters and fanboys trying to triangulate Wiggins’ position just to get a quick glimpse and maybe ask him a question -– that’s OK. But this is the important part: I think Wiggins is the Sixers' guy. I really do.

There has been a lot of speculation about the Sixers’ interest in Wiggins. Chad Ford recently reported that the Sixers contacted the Cavs about trading up to the first overall pick so they can nab Wiggins. Ford also wrote that the Wiggins camp thinks Philly is the best place for the teenage wing. After that, there were reports that Wiggins would work out in Philly this week. And that’s when people who sometimes want to talk to reporters -- people who know things about how the Sixers operate -- stopped returning my calls and texts. It happened almost all at once. That is … unusual.

Those same people didn’t go radio silent when the Sixers brought in other prospects. They didn’t always divulge information about those potential players, but they picked up the phone. Not with Wiggins. With Wiggins, they cut off communication. Then the Sixers ushered Wiggins out the PCOM back door, into an SUV, and off to the airport -- where he somehow avoided detection by CSN reporter John Clark, who has Philadelphia International wired better than an airline electrician.

Maybe that doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it’s all coincidental. But when Hinkie was hired, he said something that was worth remembering: He and his closest confidants were unlikely to leak important information. There has been precious little information on the Wiggins front, at least as far as leaks from the Sixers side go.

Call it a hunch or reading between the lines. Call it folly. (There certainly was plenty of that involved in standing on a PCOM curb for hours in an attempt to talk to a player the Sixers might never draft.) Call it whatever you like. But this feels like the Sixers dig the cut of Wiggins’ jib above all other jibs. (What’s a jib?) From everything that’s been said behind the scenes and everything that’s unfolded in front of it, it feels like Wiggins is the guy they value above all others.

Which doesn’t mean they’ll get him. It’s possible the Sixers don’t trade up and some other team takes him. It’s possible Wiggins got in that black SUV and drove away from PCOM on Tuesday for the last time. He didn’t even get a donut.