PHILADELPHIA — Still living out of a suitcase in a hotel, Sam Hinkie has yet to really settle in Philadelphia.
But in four months, he’s already become quite comfortable running the 76ers.
Hinkie has already made sweeping changes in his short tenure as Philadelphia’s president and general manager, hiring coach Brett Brown, trading All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday, hoarding future draft picks, and making moves for low-cost, low-risk players who could blossom in the right system.
He’s done it all with the simple mission of turning the Sixers into winners.
Just not this season.
In the NBA, fans like to call down seasons “tanking,” though the Sixers prefer to call the 2013-14 season simply the first step in a rebuilding process toward the franchise’s first championship since 1983.
Whatever it’s called, the Sixers are set to steel themselves for the losses ahead as long as it means brighter seasons down the road. Hinkie and Brown won’t necessarily be judged on wins and losses, but on player development and learning which players might be worth keeping around past this this lottery-bound season.
Take a look at the roster. Tim Ohlbrecht. Tony Wroten. James Anderson. Not exactly James-Wade-Bosh, is it?
“I think sometimes it’s about just finding the measuring stick that’s different than the one the world puts on you,” Hinkie said this week. “It’s finding the one in which you’re held accountable and how you hold each other accountable; what a good job looks like in a particular situation and how to be better at your job than you were yesterday. I think it’s pretty important that you learn how to keep your own scoreboard and how to be focused on what truly matters over the long term.”
For fans keeping their own scoreboard at home, they should get used to the Ls.
Hinkie spent the last eight years in Houston and was the executive vice president of basketball operations for the Rockets. A year after he was passed over for the GM job, Hinkie was the top choice this time by owner Joshua Harris to oversee the rebuilding of this beleaguered franchise.
His first major move was a stunner: A draft night swap that sent Holiday, Philadelphia’s one true asset, to New Orleans for injured Kentucky lottery pick Nerlens Noel.
The move took Philadelphia by surprise. Holiday had just signed a contract extension, made his first All-Star team and had been positioned as the face of the franchise. But a closer look at Hinkie’s track record in Houston showed that going big on draft night was always part of the plan, and a major reason why the team refused to disclose the names of the prospects they worked out at their practice facility.
Why bring in Noel and make it obvious they were interested?
In a December 2012 Sports Illustrated article that examined the inner workings of Houston’s front office, led by numbers-based GM Daryl Morey, Hinkie seemed to thrive on the draft.
“So he and Hinkie became speed-dialers, calling dozens of teams about every player they considered ‘interesting.’ Every year they tried to trade for almost every lottery pick, and more than once they came close to acquiring the No. 2 selection,” the story said.
This time, Hinkie and the Sixers snared No. 6
“I’m going to say I’m consistent,” a laughing Hinkie said.
Noel, though, had a March 12 operation to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament. The 6-foot-10 post player expects to return to the court perhaps by midseason, a long road back likely to involve countless hours of rehabilitation.
“He’s still in (Alabama) rehabbing,” Hinkie said. “Our trainers are actually going down to check on him in just a few days. So far, so good. I think he’ll be back in Philly as the season gets closer.”