Andrew Wiggins has been in Philadelphia for the last three days, meeting with the 76ers.
We know this because he has been seen walking to and from a black SUV to the team’s practice facility at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, so he is either working out for the team with the No. 3 pick in next week’s NBA draft or he has decided to leave basketball to pursue classes in the medical field.
This is pretty much all we know, however, because the Sixers under general manager Sam Hinkie continue to employ a draconian media relations policy. It’s not the Sixers’ refusal to make players who come in for workouts available to reporters, as they have since Hinkie arrived last year, that is absurd. It’s the measures the organization is willing to employ to enforce it.
The last couple of days have gone something like this, according to people who were there: Hearing that Wiggins would be in town, beat writers showed up at PCOM on Monday hoping the team might make an exception for the highest-profile prospect to be on the Sixers’ radar during Hinkie’s tenure. Not only were the reporters denied access to Wiggins, they were effectively quarantined in a parking garage, then across the street, after they were informed by security that the public sidewalk outside the facility was off limits.
A day later, a team representative apologized to reporters, offering them doughnuts and water as a peace offering. Yet Wiggins still would not be made available to the media. After his workout, he was whisked away in the black SUV once again.
To all this, there is really only one thing to say to the Sixers: Grow up.
Listen, this is not about a few sportswriters whining about being left out on the street, literally. The plight of a few beat reporters doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. But that’s entirely the point.
More than a dozen people were killed in Nigeria on Tuesday by a suicide bomber at a World Cup watch party. Iraq is devolving into greater unrest as ISIS militants gains ground. One of the greatest gentlemen in sports, Tony Gwynn, died Monday of cancer of the salivary glands. He was 54 years old. These are real-life things.
When you are involved with professional sports, either covering it or running an organization, it can be easy to forget that it is only sports. It is only a business. No one’s life is at stake, and treating something as harmless as a draft workout as though it were a state secret shows an alarming lack of perspective. San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich came closer to working for the CIA than anyone in the NBA, and he loves to laugh off people that take the sport too seriously. Most reporters, coaches, executives and owners manage to perform their roles with the dedicated yet detached understanding that while what they do matters, it doesn’t matter to the degree of a lot of other things.
Since his arrival, Hinkie has made silence a habit. He was mostly mum throughout last season, when the Sixers went 19-63. While Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge honestly explained the pain necessary to rebuild his team, paying fans in Philly were told to rest on faith. Most of the time, first-year head coach Brett Brown was left to answer the uncomfortable questions.
Secrecy in sports is nothing new. The entire NFL have become a parody of itself with many of its clandestine methods. Perhaps Hinkie’s approach eventually will yield a winning team; he is off to a pretty good start in compiling draft picks and young players while shedding more expensive veterans.
But regardless of whether the Sixers’ policies work, they reveal a lot to dislike about the organization. So, Sixers, you saved Wiggins from answering a few banal questions about how his workout went — spoiler alert: “Good” — and got to strong-arm some underpaid sportswriters in the process? Good for you. Hopefully, this ends up being the greatest crisis you ever encounter in your life, since your actions thus far suggest that it is.