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.

Joel Embiid says he's '100 percent' back from foot injury, excited to play with Ben Simmons

Joel Embiid says he's '100 percent' back from foot injury, excited to play with Ben Simmons

AVALON, N.J. -- Joel Embiid has been waiting since 2014 to make his NBA debut. Two years later, the former third overall pick is nearing that day.

“I feel a hundred percent,” Embiid said Saturday at the Sixers Beach Bash. “I’m ready to get started. My summer has been great. We’ve been working out a lot this past summer, just getting some runs in. I’ve gotten a chance to play a little bit against the guys.” 

Embiid’s pro career has been sidelined by injuries, undergoing two foot surgeries in as many years. The first was to repair a stress fracture in his right navicular bone. The second, a bone-graft operation on the same bone. 

The 7-foot-2 big man has been rehabbing since then, traveling as far as Qatar in the process. This offseason Embiid was cleared for monitored, five-on-five drills. He joined the Sixers during the Las Vegas Summer League to continue his recovery away from game competition.

“It’s been really tough,” Embiid said. “The main thing is, I haven’t gotten a chance to get on the court and play, or help my teammates, or play in front of Sixers fans. I look forward to it and I can’t wait.”

Embiid said he “definitely” plans to be a go for training camp. He expects there will be a transition period once cleared to play given the length of his rehab, but notes he is a quick learner. Embiid also anticipates having restrictions, but has not discussed the specifics with the Sixers. 

“Probably,” he said. “But I think the restrictions would probably be about the fact that I haven’t played in two years. It’s not going to be about because people are worried that I’m going to re-injure myself, which I don’t think is going to happen.”

One player who is eager for Embiid’s return is rookie first overall pick Ben Simmons. The two have been friends since high school. They easily gel off the court, and plan to do the same in games. 

“He has great footwork, he has great touch, so I’m looking forward to playing with him,” Simmons said, continuing, “Off the court, we’re like brothers. We have fun.” 

Embiid has been present with the Sixers for games and practices. He has had numerous conversations with head coach Brett Brown about his days on the San Antonio Spurs coaching staff and how the organization achieved success with fellow big Tim Duncan, one of Embiid’s basketball role models. 

With an abundance of bigs, the Sixers will have to determine how they share the floor. For Embiid, who can also knock down long-range shots, he plans to fill whatever role the coaches outline for him.

“I think I’ll take a couple threes, but I’ll do what’s best for the team and whatever I’ll feel comfortable doing,” he said. “Obviously they’re going to need my presence inside and that’s what I’m going to do. But when I’m open, I might fire some threes.”

After a series of setbacks, Embiid is enthusiastic about the thought of making his NBA debut. 

“It feels great,” he said. “Especially after the past two years, I haven’t been able to do what I love. It just feels great.”  

Sixers trade Kendall Marshall to Jazz for center Tibor Pleiss, draft picks

Sixers trade Kendall Marshall to Jazz for center Tibor Pleiss, draft picks

The Sixers on Friday traded point guard Kendall Marshall to the Utah Jazz for center Tibor Pleiss, two future second-round picks and cash. 

Both second-round picks are in the 2017 NBA draft. The Jazz have four second-rounders — their own, as well as the ones belonging to the Warriors, Knicks and Pistons. The Sixers will receive the highest and lowest of those four picks.

The Sixers are likely to waive Pleiss. The team made a similar move in July, waiving center Sasha Kaun two days after acquiring him in a trade with the Cavaliers.

Marshall, who was later waived by the Jazz after the deal, was likely to be cut by the Sixers. The team signed guards Gerald Henderson, Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez this offseason. The deal gives the Sixers future assets and cash while unloading a player signed by the previous front office.

Marshall was one of the few free agents Sam Hinkie added, signing a deal for the 2015-16 season and options for the next three seasons.

It looked initially like Marshall would be the starting point guard last season. However, Marshall, was hurt to begin the season and struggled when he got on the court. He played just 30 games and started six, averaging 3.7 points per game in 13.3 minutes. His field goal, three-point and free throw percentages all regressed from his 2014-15 season with the Bucks.

Pleiss was originally a second-round pick by the Nets in the 2010 NBA draft. The German center's rights were dealt in three separate deals, eventually ending up with the Jazz last offseason. He signed a multi-year deal and spent the 2015-16 season bouncing between the Jazz and their D-League affiliate. He averaged 2.0 points per game in 6.8 minutes. 

NBA Notes: City officials declare Kobe Bryant Day in Los Angeles

NBA Notes: City officials declare Kobe Bryant Day in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES -- Lakers fans packed Los Angeles City Hall chambers to witness the mayor and other officials declare Kobe Bryant Day in honor of the retired NBA superstar.

Councilman Jose Huizar said Wednesday's declaration is the city's way of thanking Bryant for his excellence on the court and philanthropic efforts across Los Angeles.

Bryant attended with his pregnant wife and their two daughters. He called the experience "surreal" and jokingly said someone would have to explain to his unborn daughter why "daddy has a day named for him."

Fans cheered and chanted Bryant's name as he was presented a framed proclamation by Mayor Eric Garcetti and council President Herb Wesson.

Bryant played his entire 20-season career with the Lakers, leading them to five NBA championships.

Lakers: No. 2 pick Brandon Ingram, vet Yi Jianlian signed
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Lakers have signed top draft pick Brandon Ingram and Chinese NBA veteran Yi Jianlian and re-signed center Tarik Black.

Ingram was the No. 2 overall pick in this summer's draft. The Duke product's rookie contract is expected to be worth more than $23 million over four years.

The 28-year-old Yi hasn't played in the NBA since 2011-12 with Dallas. The former No. 6 overall draft pick by Milwaukee spent five seasons in the NBA, averaging a career-best 12.0 points and 7.2 rebounds for New Jersey in 2009-10.

Yi spent the past four seasons with the Chinese Basketball Association's Guangdong Southern Tigers. He is an eight-time MVP of the CBA, winning four championships.

The 6-foot-11 Yi averaged 20.4 points per game for China at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Black has averaged 5.3 points and 5.2 rebounds in two seasons with the Lakers.

Timberwolves: Towns chosen as face of 2K mobile app
MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns has been tabbed to be the face of 2K's mobile companion application to NBA 2K17 video game, which is set to launch on Sept. 8.

The reigning rookie of the year will be the icon cover athlete for MyNBA2K17, the latest in a series of high-profile endorsements for Towns. The NBA 2K franchise has been the No. 1 selling NBA video game for the last eight years.

"I've been a dedicated NBA 2K fan since I was young, and being selected as the face of MyNBA2K17 is an incredible milestone this early in my career," Towns said on Wednesday. "Playing MyNBA2K and NBA2K is an essential part of my offseason and keeps me grounded during the season with all my travel. I love that I will have the opportunity to connect further with my fans through MyNBA2K17."

The free app connects players to the NBA 2K17 console game and includes facial scanning technology. That allows fans to design players for the game on Xbox One or PlayStation 4 using their own facial features. The app also allows users to watch 2KTV on their mobile devices and play quick games and season tournaments against users around the world.

Towns also has deals with Nike and Samsung among others and made a guest appearance on the Disney television show "Gamer's Guide to Pretty Much Everything" this summer.

On the court, he is teaming with Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Ricky Rubio and Kris Dunn to try to end the Timberwolves' 12-year playoff drought.