Sam Hinkie using his past to plan Sixers' future

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Sam Hinkie using his past to plan Sixers' future

The Sixers' president and general manger is an understated gentleman. If Sam Hinkie had his way, he would not be seen or heard. He would just do his job and hopefully be acknowledged for doing it well.

So far, so good for the first-year Sixers exec.

Wednesday night, Hinkie’s former employer, the Houston Rockets, were in town and just as Brett Brown had talked about being mentored by Gregg Popovich a couple days earlier (when the Spurs visited the Wells Fargo Center), so too did Hinkie share thoughts of Daryl Morey, the Rockets’ general manager and Hinkie’s longtime mentor.

“I was in Houston for a year before Daryl came and [Morey] was a godsend for someone like me,” Hinkie said. “He thought the way I think. He did things in a similar way. I feel fortunate to have the time I did to work with him.”

The Sixers' win over the Rockets turned out to be an entertaining affair for 53 minutes of action. Yes, James Harden and Michael Carter-Williams were out with foot injuries.

However, the Sixers' absence of MCW allowed other players to shine, namely James Anderson, who scored a career-high 36 points. Tony Wroten also recorded a triple-double in his first ever NBA start.

Brett Brown’s team improved to 5-4 on the season -- a record no one saw coming, including the architect of the roster.

“I think a lot of the elements that we have seen already the city likes and that is that we are going to get up and down and play aggressively,” Hinkie said. “We are going to spread the floor and not be shy about letting it go and we are going to play both ends. We may not always play it with great success. We put pressure on people and we are an aggressive, attacking team.

“The league is a marathon,” Hinkie stressed. “We have a long way to go in this season and a long way to go to build the kind of thing we want to build, but it will take those elements for us to get where we want to go.”

Where the franchise wants to go is being a championship contender. They believe Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel are cornerstones to making that happen.

Carter-Williams did not play Wednesday, but the rookie point guard’s play has opened plenty of eyes around the league in his previous eight outings.

“He has made some real positive strides early, which has been good,” Hinkie said of Carter-Williams. “I think that is good for him because he is a naturally confident guy. He is a competitive guy and a gamer, and it is good to see him reap some of the rewards of hard work in the summer and training camp.”

Carter-Williams is averaging 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 7.6 assists a game. But, if not for the stabilizing force around him, he may have felt the need to shoulder the burden for the rebuilding franchise.

“All of our vets have been great and really bought in to what coach is doing fitness-wise and work ethic-wise and player development,” Hinkie said. “I think they like the new system, and I think all of them would say they are in the best shape of their life and they have been given a lot of freedom and a lot of new opportunity. I feel like all of them have grasped it in a way, and we are proud of them.”

Sixers-Nuggets 5 things: Defense needs to improve to stop skid

Sixers-Nuggets 5 things: Defense needs to improve to stop skid

The Sixers (4-16) close out their four-game homestand against the Denver Nuggets (7-13) at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night (7 p.m./CSN and CSNPhilly.com).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup:

1. Missing the stop sign
Apparently, tis the season for giving up points.

The Sixers' defense folded again in their latest loss, a 107-106 defeat to the Boston Celtics on Saturday night. The Sixers have allowed 107.8 points per game this season (25th in the NBA) and 109.1 during their six-game losing skid.

The Sixers let All-Star Isaiah Thomas do the damage on Saturday as he scored 37 points to become the fifth point guard to reach the 30-point plateau against them this season.

On the other side, the Nuggets' defense has actually been even worse. They rank 27th in the league with 109.5 points allowed per game.

2. Hello again
With Joel Embiid also making his debut this season, Dario Saric was always going to play second fiddle when it came to rookies on the Sixers' roster. That has certainly been the case now that Embiid has been putting up dominant numbers while Saric has been up and down.

However, Saric was on the same level as his fellow rookie against the Celtics. The Croatian broke out of a recent slump to notch a double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds, which both matched career highs.

That performance also included this highlight-reel moment when Saric destroyed Jonas Jerebko's ankles (see video).

“I prepared a little bit more for this game,” Saric said (see story). “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.”

3. Clean the glass
The Sixers will need a similar effort from Saric on the boards if they want to compete with the Nuggets.

Denver is the No. 1 rebounding team in the entire NBA with 49.6 rebounds per game. The Nuggets attack the glass on both ends, too, as they are tops in defensive rebounding and No. 2 in offensive rebounding.

The offensive boards are also a main reason Denver sits third in second-chance points with 15.6 a night.

None of that bodes well for a Sixers team that rates just 20th overall in rebounding.

4. Injuries
Jahlil Okafor (gastroenteritis) is questionable. Robert Covington (knee/illness), Jerryd Bayless (wrist), Nerlens Noel (knee) and Ben Simmons (foot) are out for the Sixers.

Nikola Jokic (wrist) and Gary Harris (foot) are out for the Nuggets.

5. This and that
• The Sixers lost both meetings with the Nuggets last season by a combined four points.

• Monday's game will feature both players who won the NBA's Rookie of the Month awards in Embiid and Nuggets guard Jamal Murray. Embiid is averaging 18.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in 23.2 minutes per game. Murray is putting up 9.5 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 21.7 minutes a night.

• In seven career games against the Sixers, Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried has averaged 7.6 points and 6.9 rebounds. Those are actually his lowest and third-lowest marks, respectively, against any NBA team.

Joel Embiid to play Monday vs. Nuggets; Jahlil Okafor questionable (illness)

Joel Embiid to play Monday vs. Nuggets; Jahlil Okafor questionable (illness)

CAMDEN, N.J. -- In following with his back-to-back plan, Joel Embiid will play Monday against the Nuggets at home and will not play Tuesday against the Grizzlies in Memphis. Embiid will be on a 28-minute restriction, established last week. 

"Obviously I wanted to play against Memphis," Embiid said after shootaround Monday. "Marc Gasol, great guy to play against. I wanted to do that but we've got Denver, especially at home. I know the fans that want to see team, that want to see me play. So that was a big factor into choosing, deciding to play this game."

The Sixers may be without fellow big Jahlil Okafor, who missed shootaround because of illness. He is questionable for Monday's game. 

Robert Covington will miss his second straight game with a left knee sprain. He also has flu-like symptoms. He will not travel to Memphis or New Orleans. 

Jerryd Bayless also remains sidelined with left wrist soreness. His status to join the team for the next two games on the road is questionable. 

Nerlens Noel, who is rehabbing with the Sixers, will not join the team on trip.