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Sixers' reputation with agents could hurt them

Everything about the 76ers' blueprint for building a championship-caliber franchise is unique. As they're learning, some folks around the NBA aren't fans of the uniqueness.

Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie.
Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie.Read more(Mike Manger / For the Inquirer)

Everything about the 76ers' blueprint for building a championship-caliber franchise is unique. As they're learning, some folks around the NBA aren't fans of the uniqueness.

The team has been criticized for having just one "basketball person" in its front office in Brandon D. Williams, who played 18 games in the NBA. The Sixers prefer to keep to themselves instead of joining the old boys' network. And some argue that the Sixers are not establishing relationships with agents to become a major player in free agency in the future.

One agent said he doesn't want his max-level players in Philadelphia. He's open to his midlevel players signing with the Sixers only if they overpay.

The agent also said the Sixers are viewed as a landing spot for clients without any other NBA options.

Another league source laughed at the thought that Kevin Durant would be interested in the Sixers once he becomes a free agent after the season.

"Are you kidding me? There is no way," he said. "Whoever thinks Kevin Durant is coming to the Philadelphia 76ers is absolutely out of their mind. There's no way . . . in any scenario. He's not doing it. He wants to win."

But the Sixers' front office believes you can't govern a team by trying to make everyone happy. The team's lone focus is on building something special that will sustain over a long period of time.

However, the Sixers' lack of relationships with agents could hinder their ability to attract max-level free agents next summer.

"The only way an agent will deal with the Sixers is the Jimmy Butler situation," said a league source, noting that the restricted free agent identified the Sixers as possible destination this summer before he re-signed with the Chicago Bulls.

"They'll use the Sixers and [general manager Sam] Hinkie to get leverage for other teams," he added. "They said, 'OK, the Sixers have max money,' and they'll use that and put it out there in the press or whatever just to get leverage."

So why the disconnect?

Hinkie declined to be interviewed for this story. But a team source said the reason is that the general manager has put what is best for the franchise ahead of what the agents want.

A prime example was when the team drafted Michael Carter-Williams with the 11th overall pick in the 2013 draft. The source said the next morning Hinkie had 35 voice messages from agents, stating that they had the perfect veteran backup/mentor for the rookie point guard. The source said all of those players had one thing in common: They were all over 30 years old, unemployed, and were seeking over $1 million.

Hinkie passed and acquired Tony Wroten, who was a second-year player at the time, in a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies to serve as Carter-Williams' backup.

According to the source, the move disappointed agents looking for jobs for their clients. He added that Hinkie treats people with dignity and is straightforward.

However, league sources, including agents, claim Hinkie is hard to deal with. They said he doesn't make it a priority to return calls in a timely fashion or, on occasion, at all.

"If [former power agent] Arn Tellem is making multiple phone calls, or if it's a Bill Duffy or if it's a Mark Bartelstein or a Jeff Schwartz, you'd better take that call, and you'd better show them respect," one source said. "If not, that will come back to haunt you double-fold, triple-fold in a later period. . . . They have egos the size of NBA superstars, and they are very powerful."

But things can change in a hurry for the Sixers.

They have a chance to get four first-round picks in the NBA draft in June. Things will be interesting if they're able to get two of the first five picks. They could use those picks on talented wings to play alongside post players Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. A free-agent point guard might decide that he's the missing link.

If the money is right and the Sixers' talent has improved, they believe their strained relationship with agents will quickly become a thing of past.