76ers Rumors: Is Mike D'Antoni's Interest Real or for Leverage?

Justin Grasso

A month following the firing of Brett Brown, the Philadelphia 76ers are hunting for the team's next head coach still. Several candidates have been linked to the Sixers over the last four weeks or so, but none have stuck more than former Houston Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni and Los Angeles Clippers assistant, Ty Lue.

Who is the favorite at the moment? It's rather unclear. Before D'Antoni hit the market officially, it seemed the Sixers job was Lue's to lose. Now that D'Antoni is available to test the waters, the 76ers have reportedly brought him in for an interview and plan to host him for a second one sometime in the next week, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Lately, the D'Antoni to Philly rumblings have been described as "loud" behind the scenes, according to Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer. And despite questions about D'Antoni's on-court system, the interest makes sense considering he's familiar with the organization as he was an associate head coach back in 2015.

But just because it seems from the outside looking in that D'Antoni and the Sixers will eventually reunite once again, that doesn't mean there aren't skeptics out there who believe the recent rumblings are all a part of a leverage game. Per The PhillyVoice's Kyle Neubeck, some anonymous league sources have "questioned" D'Antoni's interest.

"Some are more skeptical that the interest is a two-way street. Multiple league sources who spoke with PhillyVoice have questioned whether D'Antoni is genuinely interested in the job or whether it's a leverage play to get a better deal elsewhere. There are other teams, most notably the Pacers and Pelicans, with rosters that better suit his style of basketball."

Bringing D'Antoni on to coach this current Sixers roster is a noticeable question mark, but it should be noted the Sixers are willing to make personnel changes tailored for his style of play where it's possible. 

Not only did Elton Brand refuse to rule out any non-Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons trades this offseason, but a report from Yahoo Sports' Keith Smith went as far as saying the Sixers are letting teams know they are open for business if D'Antoni becomes their next head coach. 

Plus, some other whispers around the league indicated that a suggestion had been thrown out stating D'Antoni "preferred" the Sixers if he were to become a free agent just days before the Rockets were eliminated from the NBA Playoffs. 

Whether D'Antoni's interest is genuine or a leverage play, the Sixers will need to figure out who they will hire next sooner than later. If they wait until it's too late, Philly could miss out on all three of their preferred top candidates and get left with a talented roster without the optimal head coach to come in and help maximize its talents. 

Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_