Explainer: What’s happening with the Sixers and the Bryan Colangelo Twitter scandal

Catch up on the details about the current Philly basketball fuss.

Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo in 2017

Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo in 2017

James Lang-USA TODAY Sports
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Things are going crazy in Sixers world right now. Fans and pundits are calling for the firing of executives. Star center Joel Embiid is trying to reassure people his tweets were jokes. What the hell is going on? For those who need to catch up quickly, here’s a guide.

What started all this?

A May 29 article the in The Ringer linked five anonymous Twitter accounts to Bryan Colangelo, president of basketball operations and general manager for the Sixers.

He admitted to running only one of them, @Phila1234567. That account never actually tweeted anything, but follows media members NBA employees and NBA agents. Sports execs having “shadow” accounts to follow the conversation isn’t novel — it’s the other four “burner” accounts causing the commotion.

Who even is Bryan Colangelo?

Colangelo took over in 2016 after former general manager Sam Hinkie resigned. Hinkie is known for his use of analytics, and it was under his leadership that the Sixers mantra “Trust the Process” was coined.

Colangelo is a two-time Executive of the Year, once with the Phoenix Suns in 2007 and with the Toronto Raptors in 2008. However, he’s generally not a guy who steps into the headlines — in contrast with counterparts like Marc Cuban in Dallas or Danny Ainge in Boston, who are vocal and active on social media. Fans who don’t closely follow the team’s every move might easily never have heard Colangelo’s name before. Which makes this story even more odd.

Why does it matter if Colangelo did run those burner accounts?

The anonymous accounts leaked non-public information about player injuries, specifically regarding former center Jahlil Okafor. They also leveled criticims at Joel Embiid, Markelle Fultz, former center Nerlens Noel — and Sam Hinkie. A few examples are below.

Colangelo has not had the resounding support from Sixers fans since he has taken over, in part because of the belief that he basically inherited all the work that Hinkie put in place.

A young fan in 2017 who was not happy with Colangelo

A young fan in 2017 who was not happy with Colangelo

John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

But things have worked well this season. After rising to the third seed in the the Eastern conference, winning 52 games and making the playoffs for the first time since 2011-2012, fans might have moved on from their resentment for Colangelo.

So much for that. If it is really true that Colangelo was running these accounts, it could destroy any respect he has gained from fans. The tweets were chock full of frustrations with players, jealousy of Hinkie support and overall immaturity.

So what — it’s just Twitter, right?

This reveal comes at a crucial time. This summer is very important with regard to the Sixers’ future. NBA free agency begins on July 1, when big-name players like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Paul George and Chris Paul will be on the market.

The Sixers are looking to bring in a marquee free agent to pair with their franchise cornerstones, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Head Coach Brett Brown said after being eliminated by the Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals that the Sixers “need help” to win a championship.

Brown’s right. But a situation like this could turn away some — if not all — of the marquee free agents away from Philly. Which would leave the Sixers stuck where they were this year — really great, but just one or two pieces away from winning a title.

Do people really care?

Yes. People definitely care.

Some people are giving Colangelo the benefit of the doubt, others are calling for his firing, while some are just worried about what this means for the team.

What does Joel Embiid think?

Of course Joel Embiid had something to say about the matter.

These tweets sent fans into a frenzy, with Sixers supporters and NBA players alike, wondering if Embiid was now looking to get out of Philly. Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ Mccollum took the opportunity to do a bit of recruiting.

To the joy of Sixers fans, however, Embiid later said those tweets were all a joke.

So did Colangelo actually run those accounts or what?

Innocent until proven guilty. Right?

Considering the evidence that has been presented — including password resets that look like they’re connected with Colangelo’s or his wife’s phone — it seems more likely than not he is the one behind these accounts and their tweets. His denials would make the discovery even worse.

It is out of character, however, for an executive at Colangelo’s level to do something like this.

The Sixers are taking this seriously

Wednesday morning, the Sixers put out a press release noting the team was investigating the matter.