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.