Long ago, during a Phillies offseason at a time when Lenny Dykstra was on the team and considered merely puckish, he would greet acquaintances with a demand: “Hey, Dude. Ask me what I think of the Von Hayes trade.” The Phillies had recently dealt the taciturn outfielder to the Angels.
“OK, Lenny. What do you think of the Von Hayes trade?”
“I think it was a great trade, dude. Who did we get?”
Dykstra considered this high comedy, and it was kind of funny, although a bit mean. Sometimes, however, you feel that way when a trade is made, and it is exactly how it felt — minus the meanness — when the Sixers traded Markelle Fultz to Orlando.
Nothing against the kid, and here’s hoping all of his outlets are healed, thoracic and otherwise, and he enjoys a healthy and productive NBA career. He’s got a huge problem with the advice he’s getting from his family and his agent, and he needs to confront that, but it was just time to move on from here and solve that elsewhere.
Even his introductory news conference with the Magic, when he nibbled at the hand that tried so hard to feed him — saying it will be exciting to have a coach who pushes you instead of telling you what you want to hear — should be ignored, if possible. He’s 20 years old, confused, probably scared, and looking for someone to blame for the hand he’s been dealt. Good luck, Orlando. You’re going to need it.
At this end of the transaction, I think Elton Brand should be named NBA executive of the year right now. Forget acquiring Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. Getting a protected first-round pick and a good second-round pick, along with a bench player in Jonathon Simmons, in exchange for The Fultz Experience is brilliant.
Even if nothing comes of the picks or Simmons, just getting the $10 million off the salary cap for next season, not to mention ridding the organization of the distraction, is a masterstroke.
The trade does something else, too, at least the way I choose to view it. The book is now closed on the Bryan Colangelo era as general manager and president of basketball operations. And what a book it was.
Technically, this isn’t true, because there are threads of both the Sam Hinkie and the Colangelo eras dangling into Brand’s third stewardship of The Process. From Colangelo’s two years in charge, you still have Furkan Korkmaz and Jonah Bolden, and if you want to count the presence of Amir Johnson and JJ Redick, that’s all right, too, although the current administration was the one that re-signed Redick.
But in terms of signature moves prior to his self-immolation, Colangelo will be linked most closely here to the 2017 draft, when he was pickpocketed by Danny Ainge at the price of a high lottery pick and (probably) a low lottery pick for the pleasure of having Fultz disappear before our eyes.
Until Fultz was traded, of course, there was still the possibility he would recover and become a superstar. But now the accounting is more sobering: a low first (probably), a high second, and Jonathon Simmons for those two high firsts. And Brand did better to get that than anyone could have hoped.
The only other major moves by Colangelo — we’re going to overlook the Kendall Marshall-for-Tibor Pleiss swap — were the deals he found to move Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. Those weren’t anything to brag about, either, unless you have a soft spot for the short but interesting reigns of Trevor Booker and Andrew Bogut.
If you wish to credit Colangelo for selecting Ben Simmons with the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft that dropped into his lap, go ahead, but 29 other general managers would have done exactly the same thing.
No, Colangelo, will certainly be ridiculed here for the way he left, but he will be remembered for Fultz.
He was terrified that the Sixers would end with Josh Jackson in that draft. Boston had settled on Jayson Tatum and would have taken him even if the Celtics kept the top pick. The Lakers drafted second, and if they grabbed Fultz rather than Lonzo Ball, the Sixers had no use for the big point guard (already having Simmons) and would have been stuck with Jackson, whom they didn’t like very much, and certainly not with the third pick.
So, Colangelo traded up to get out of that conundrum and, this being a results business, the move turned out to be a major mistake. (Although it does appear he was right about Jackson.) If Fultz had been what they envisioned him to be — the perfect backcourt fit for Simmons, with the ball and without — Colangelo would be celebrated now, and might even have survived his unfortunate Twitter denouement.