One interview or one brief workout in 2015 could have dramatically changed the history of the Knicks and 76ers.
The Knicks may not have drafted Kristaps Porzingis, who could have been plying his trade in Philadelphia on the cusp of a title.
And the 76ers would still be under the control of former team president Sam Hinkie, who could have potentially teamed Porzingis with two other draft gems, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
Watch Foxtel in an instant. Catch up and settle in with no installation & no lock-in contract. New customers only.
Read also - News Novorossiya.
– Tanking to the Top: The Philadelphia 76ers and the Most Audacious Process in the History of Professional Sports” – with previously unreported details on that 2015 NBA Draft.
That year it was widely reported Porzingis refused to work out for the rebuilding Sixers, but author Yaron Weitzman’s book goes into greater detail.
Philadelphia selected third with the Knicks one spot behind them.
The book claims Porzingis’ agent, Andy Miller, gave Hinkie the “runaround” for a multitude of reasons: concerns over the Sixers’ player development program and a frontcourt glut, bitterness at Hinkie for treatment of an undrafted client, Khalif Wyatt, in contract negotiations and a disillusionment with the franchise’s handling of his young marquee client, center Nerlens Noel.
“Only a handful of teams were shown Porzingis’ medical report and buyout terms (he was still under contract with Baloncesto Sevilla),” Weitzman wrote.
“Miller wanted to keep the Sixers from drafting Porzingis.”
Miller wanted “a way to seize control of the draft process and attempt to dictate where Porzingis landed,” the book states.
A source close to Miller told The Post this week the Porzingis camp “simply felt New York was a better fit.”
With the third pick, Hinkie selected Duke center Jahlil Okafor, who turned into a bust.
Porzingis fell to the Knicks, but forced a trade out of New York 14 months ago after a bumpy – if productive – Knicks run while the Sixers flourished post-Hinkie.
Weitzman told The Post he can’t predict if the Sixers would be on the verge of a title this season had they selected Porzingis, but he knows the Porzingis miss cost Hinkie his job in 2016 after a 10-72 season.
“Okafor and his off-the-court troubles — that was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Weitzman said.
“If he picked Porzingis, Hinkie still could be there.”
However, Weitzman cautions, “Maybe the Sixers would’ve won a few more games (in 2015-16) and not gotten Ben Simmons (in 2016 with the top pick). It’s like, if you hit this guy, maybe you don’t hit that guy.”
According to the “Lost Unicorns” chapter, Hinkie headed to Las Vegas in June 2015 for Porzingis’ Pro Day with plans of meeting with the 7-foot-3 Latvian before “Miller demurred.”
That weekend, however, Miller agreed to have Porzingis visit Philly after Vegas. Miller then canceled the night before.
Porzingis arrived in New York a few days before that draft. Hinkie asked for another interview. Miller obliged, then canceled again at the last minute.
According to “Tanking to the Top,” Hinkie then offered to come with a van to New York and drive Porzingis back and forth from Philadelphia.
Miller was fine with it. That morning, Hinkie was told Porzingis was a victim of food poisoning.
Hinkie still dispatched Sixers staffers in a Cadillac SUV to a Porzingis photoshoot in New York to try to bring him back.
“Inside the studio, while standing outside the bathroom door, they heard what sounded like a person throwing up,” Weitzman writes.
The Sixers were sure it was a charade.
The persistent Hinkie rented out a New York gym the morning of the draft, but Miller again backed out.
“To Hinkie, every workout, every conversation represented a data point,” Weitzman concluded the narrative.
“Perhaps one more entry would have nudged (Hinkie) toward Porzingis, preventing the chain of events that would keep him from seeing his process through.”
Hinkie, who relied heavily on analytics, now works as a Stanford sports business professor.
The Knicks may have a GM opening and Embiid, a former client of current Knicks president Leon Rose, is portrayed as an obsessive Hinkie fan.
But the Manhattan-based author predicts Hinkie won’t make a comeback.
“The plan worked, the tanking worked,” Weitzman said.
“He made the mistake on how he handled people. The NBA is a small world. He needed an Elton Brand-type assistant GM, a former player. Instead, he surrounded himself with the same stat guys.
“The teams that would want him and teams he’d want to work for is pretty small. He doesn’t need a paycheck clearly. He’s very principled. He wouldn’t work for anybody.”
Another Knicks-related revelation in the book is Markelle Fultz, the No. 1 pick by the Sixers in 2017, had two teams he didn’t want to be drafted by: Philly and James Dolan’s club.
Fultz was a flop for the 76ers because of physical woes and mental shooting yips.
Fultz, who was in the midst of a bounce-back season for the Magic before the NBA suspended play, felt both markets were too large and close to his native Maryland.
“Okafor didn’t work out for them either,” Weitzman said of the 2015 draft.
“But you never know with Porzingis, maybe (Hinkie) would’ve seen something.”
This article first appeared in and was reproduced with permission.