Hinkie: Sixers' challenges 'not for the faint of heart'

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Hinkie: Sixers' challenges 'not for the faint of heart'

When the press conference began, only two men sat down in front of the Sixers' backdrop to face the media. They hadn’t said anything yet, which was fine, because the scene said plenty.

Two men. Not a parade of countless owners crowding onto the platform to soak in the spotlight. Not the team’s ever-growing roster of consultants. Two men. That was it. Majority owner Joshua Harris was seated next to his newest hire -- Sam Hinkie, the man who was officially announced as the organization’s president and general manager on Tuesday at PCOM.

Harris reportedly took the lead in finding someone to replace former president Rod Thorn (now a consultant for the team) and former general manager Tony DiLeo (now a nice but unemployed man). Hinkie was his hire. That’s the main power structure these days. Harris and Hinkie and whomever they bring in to coach the team.

That’s the next undertaking for the franchise -- finding a head coach. It is a big task, but it is one of many. Because while the Sixers now have someone to lead the front office -- someone respected for his deep knowledge of advanced analytics and salary cap nuance -- the organization still has many chores ahead.

“The challenge in front of us is not for the faint of heart,” Hinkie admitted. “It humbles me, in fact. But it also invigorates me to get to work.”

“Humbles” was an interesting word. “Frightens” might have been a better choice, but it was his first day on the job. Perhaps the terror will set in a little later.

If the Sixers are a home improvement project, Hinkie and his basketball construction staff can either tear the entire structure down to the foundation and rebuild, or they can keep what they like and renovate everything else. There is no right or guaranteed approach.

As Hinkie said, it’s a “hard league” and there aren’t any “silver bullets where you do one thing and it makes it really easy overnight.” By most accounts, he is a smart man, but he isn’t a wizard who can say a spell and undo the copious mistakes that were made before he was pried away from the Houston Rockets.

So, about those challenges. Care to outline them?

“The situation that the franchise is in right now after a well-documented big trade that didn’t end in a way that people are comfortable with,” Hinkie said. “And so now you really have to face yourself in the mirror everyday and look at the reality of what’s here and the reality of what can be.”

Again, it was his first day. He’s probably still looking for the coffee machine and someone to go to lunch with, so we’ll help him out. What’s here: Not much. What can be: That’s a much tougher topic.

The Sixers need a head coach. They have limited assets in terms of players who can be valuable to them on the court or in trades. The draft is approaching (Hinkie leaves for the pre-draft camp in Chicago on Wednesday). And they’ll have to get creative with the salary cap if they want to free up money for free agency this offseason or next.

All of that falls under Hinkie’s purview. So does the Andrew Bynum decision, which might be the toughest of all. Again, tear down the whole thing and start over or try to renovate and hope for the best? Maybe you think the Sixers’ decision should be obvious one way or the other, but if Hinkie sees things that way he wasn’t letting on. Not on Tuesday.

Hinkie was asked about Bynum and whether the trade is officially over as far as the organization is concerned. The question had an obvious undertone: Is the franchise finished with Bynum? Hinkie paused for a while before answering. For five long seconds, actually.

“I don’t think there’s anything else to be said about the trade except the way people think about it in hindsight,” Hinkie said. “If your question is about Andrew in particular, which I suspect it is, which is fine, I suspect this makes me boring, I think of Andrew like the thousands of other young men walking around the world that are unrestricted free agents that have the potential to play NBA basketball. And he is one of those. And I am duty-bound to consider them, to look at them, all of them.”

You can read and re-read that quote and here’s what you’ll come away with: Not much. There are a lot of words in that response but not much information. If Hinkie knows what he wants to do about Bynum -- or a head coach or Evan Turner or Thaddeus Young or Jrue Holiday or in free agency or the upcoming draft -- he’s keeping it to himself, at least for now.

“I started my career out of college in the business world in using data to help people make complicated decisions,” Hinkie said. “It turns out it helps. It helps a lot.”

He’d better hope so.

Dario Saric halts slump with 'best game as a 76er'

Dario Saric halts slump with 'best game as a 76er'

Dario Saric came into the NBA knowing his rookie season would be one of ups and downs. He would have successes based on his talent and struggle because of the newness of the league and matchups.

Saturday’s performance against the Celtics was one of those highlight nights. Saric scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, both tying career-highs, for his third double-double. He was efficient in his performance, playing 27 minutes off the bench in the Sixers' 107-106 loss.

“I thought that was his best game as a 76er,” Brett Brown said.

Saric had struggled the night before against the Magic. He barely made a dent in 16 minutes, posting just two points (1 for 5 from the field) without a single rebound. The poor showing was on his mind Saturday, as he got ready for the second game of the back-to-back. He went in early to get up extra shots, met with coaches, studied film and thought about the matchup throughout the day.

“I prepared a little bit more for this game,” Saric said. “After I have some bad rhythm of five or six, maybe, games. Now I concentrate more. I try to give my best, try to play my best, try to think before everything happens.”

Saric showed his aggressiveness in crunch time in the fourth quarter, when he scored seven points and five rebounds in eight minutes. He nailed a three to cut the Celtics' lead to 92-91 with 4:28 to play. Then with 1:09 remaining, Saric’s free throws cut the Celtics' lead to two points. On the other end of the court, he snagged the rebound off an Isaiah Thomas miss and scored a game-tying layup from Jahlil Okafor.  

“He played great,” Okafor said. “He’s working hard every day, getting used to the NBA process. It was good to see hard work paying off for him.”

Saric has been adjusting to new roles throughout the season. He was thrown into the starting power forward spot when Ben Simmons was injured, and then moved to the bench when the team acquired Ersan Ilyasova. On Saturday, Brown also played Saric at small forward in Robert Covington’s (knee) absence, a shift the Sixers may try again.

“He’s a good teammate,” Brown said. “He’s biding his time. He understands he’s a rookie. Incrementally, he’ll be given these opportunities. Tonight he did and he responded and you’re seeing continued growth.”

Saric still is early in his NBA career, and Saturday's showing was a game he can look back on and study for the rest of the season. 

“I feel like tonight … you’d walk away and say, ‘Shoot, that’s a hell of a player for playing 20 games in the NBA and he did what he just did against a hell of a team,’” Brown said. “I’m proud of what we saw all over the place from Dario.”

Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

As part of their “Salute Saturday” series, the Sixers honored the 1966-67 championship team at halftime of their 107-106 loss the Celtics on Saturday.

Fifty years after winning the title, the success of the squad (which went 68-13 in the regular season) still resonates with those representing the Sixers today. After all, they are the group Wilt Chamberlain described as “the best team ever.” 

“It’s just part of the history of this city and the organization,” said Brett Brown, who has established a relationship with Billy Cunningham through practice visits and emails. “There was a toughness with that team that he personified and the city sort of reflects. It’s stuff you hear me talk about all the time how you want our team to reflect the spirit of the city. That team did it.”

Prior to their tribute ceremony, members of the team reflected on their run in which they beat the San Francisco Warriors for the title. 

On Wilt Chamberlain
“Wilt was such a dominant figure, not only as a basketball player, but he’s almost bigger than the game,” Matt Goukas said. “He played so well, he was such a good team player – he started really passing the ball right around that time --and that enabled great scorers like Hal (Greer) and Billy and Chet Walker to do their thing, and Wilt was very happy to give them that leeway.”.

On fond memories
“It was a team that we played well together and we lived as a family and that’s what made it so good for us," Greer said. "A lot of fun, a lot of fun. We missed the next year, but 68-13 is not bad at all.”

“It’s hard to forget a situation like that where we had such a terrific team and the season went so quickly, we won so many games and then of course winning a championship,” Goukas said. “As a first year player I said, ‘This is the way it’s supposed to be, I guess.’ But of course I never won another championship as a player, but we had such a terrific group of guys and true professionals that for me as a rookie, Billy Melchionni as a rookie, we really benefited from guys like Hal Greer, Wally Jones and Harry Costello, they really showed us the way.”

On team chemistry
“It was very difficult times when you look at the sixties from a social aspect,” Cunningham said. “Martin Luther King was killed the following year we won the championship. Race relationships weren’t the best. And this time, which was just about half black-half white, I’m not even sure, it was never an issue. That’s the beauty I think of being on a team you know getting to know people, you judge them as an individual and nothing more than that.”

“I think it was our coach Alex Hannum, for one (that kept the team together),” Greer said. “And of course the big guy. He held us together most of the time, he could rebound, play defense, do it all.”