Make no mistake, Brett Brown is happy with how Thursday night unfolded and thinks the 76ers made the right decisions for the team. But there was one part of the draft that was particularly difficult for the interim general manager.
“The human side of tonight is disturbing,” Brown said late Thursday night.
The Sixers selected Mikal Bridges with the 10th pick in the draft. He was the guy that was highest on their board, the one they had targeted and intended to bring into the fold. He is the homegrown product from Villanova. He was only a 76er for about 45 minutes.
The excitement of getting their number one target was quickly met with a deal that Brown and the Sixers felt they couldn’t pass on.
The Phoenix Suns were offering the 16th pick, Zhaire Smith, a player whom the Sixers had ranked just below Bridges, and a 2021 unprotected first-round pick in exchange for Bridges.
“Wow, look at this deal, look at this incredible godfather of a deal that can move our program forward in ways that we couldn’t have imagined before this draft,” Brown said of his reaction in the moment that the deal was offered. “And so you’re caught. You really toggle between different emotions.”
Brown and the Sixers’ war room executives couldn’t stay caught in their emotions for long. They had only moments to make the decision and then had to move on to their other five draft picks and what would unfold the rest of the night.
“We make the draft and emotions carry over that it’s pretty cool, he’s from Villanova and it’s the city of Philadelphia, you can’t make this stuff up, his mom works across the street, all that stuff,” Brown said. “Everybody in that room knew how excited I was.”
It wasn’t just Brown that ran the gamut of emotions from joy to disappointment to excitement again. Bridges and his entire family were on cloud nine after the Sixers made the initial pick.
Bridges’ mother, Tyneeha Rivers, the vice president of human resources for the Sixers and Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment (the umbrella company of Sixers owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer), works out of the Sixers’ Camden complex where the team practices. She was excited by the prospect of having her son right around the corner, and it was a dream for him to join his hometown team.
But after the initial confusion, disappointment, and cold realization of the nature of the NBA as a business, excitement settled in once again.
The fact is that Bridges was selected 10th overall and his NBA career has begun. He is headed to a Phoenix Suns team on the rise that now has an impressive collection of young talent that includes this years No. 1 overall pick, Deandre Ayton.
“He’s going to be great,” Brown said. “Let’s face it…When you eliminate the human side and the Philadelphia and local side, just look at what happened. He’s in a good place and he’s going to be around for a long time and he knows what we think of him. We chose him 10th for a reason.”
Bridges echoed Brown’s sentiments later in the night, saying that he was excited to join the Suns and get started.
Though Brown is proud of the work the Sixers accomplished Thursday night, the draft reinforced something Brown said when he accepted the interim general manager posting following Bryan Colangelo’s resignation: This isn’t what he wants to do. He doesn’t want to be the one to authorize the deal that lets go of a player that could have been a hometown hero.
“I am a basketball coach,” he said.
The greatest joys for Brown are in the development of players, in game planning, and in strategizing ways to win basketball games. Though he enjoys having a larger role, and he “bleeds for the program,” he has no intention of being the guy who has to make these kinds of decisions in the future.