Five Reasons to Like the Sixers Hire of Sam Hinkie

Five Reasons to Like the Sixers Hire of Sam Hinkie

GM's usually aren't particularly sexy hires for basketball franchises--most casual NBA fans can't name more than a handful of incumbent GMs across the league anyway, and new guys usually don't have much of a resume to point to, unless they've already been fired elsewhere. Still, if any fanbase was going to be excited about a new GM, it should probably Sixers fans after the Liberty Ballers nabbed ex-Rockets assistant Sam Hinkie, an analytics-minded exec from the Houston Rockets, who should finally put an end to the Sixers' ambiguous front-office hierarchy  and give the team a strong guiding hand for the years to come.

That said, I'm not gonna pretend like I had any clue who this guy was this time last week. But after learning a little about the guy, and seeing his introductory presser, it seems like Sixer fans have decent reason to think this guy is gonna be good news for a team that could really, really use some. Here's some reasons why:

1. The Rockets did some pretty cool things with him on board. On paper, Houston's run over the last decade with him on board was not a particularly impressive one--they won just one playoff series, and missed the playoffs altogether two of the last three years. But Houston was also arguably the league's unluckiest team over that span, fielding two top-ten-caliber players in Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady who were both constantly beset by injuries, seemingly never healthy at the same time for an extended playoff run. In the meantime, they were always at least competitive, never resorting to outright tanking in order to rebuild their franchise, and appear to be back on the ascent again after acquiring All-Star guard James Harden in the off-season and making pushing top-seeded Oklahoma City to six games in the playoffs.

Also, Hinkie was involved in Houston with the drafting and signing of numerous players undervalued by the league over the years, including excellent second-round picks like Chandler Parsons, Carl Landry and Chase Budinger, free-agent steals like Omer Asik and Patrick Beverley, and shrewd trade acquisitions like Luis Scola, Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic. Despite never contending for a championship, the Rockets have deserved league-wide renown as being one of the Smart Teams, and though GM Darryl Morey gets most of the credit for that, Hinkie also played a part as the second-in-command.

2. He's not afraid of numbers. Nobody hates the phrase "analytically minded" as much as analytically minded guys, and for good reason--analytics guys get a reputation for being insular, small-picture-oriented and ultimately clueless to what really goes on on the court, but really they're just not averse to seeking out and then using some deeper data to make decisions that really need to be as informed as humanly possible. Hinkie talked about that in his press conference, stressing his desire to collect knowledge from as many different sources as possible, blanching some at the "analytics" references but stressing a need for information.

That alone doesn't make you a smart guy, but when compared to the stubborn "I know because I know" mentality of Doug Collins (who once actually said he would "blow [his] brains out" if he had to focus on analytics, before pointing to his head and his gut as his analytics), it seems a little more open-minded, at the least.

3. He's in it for the long haul. "Just beating the average by a bit in a team of 30 competitors will serve only to disappoint all of us in the long run," Hinkie said in the opening statement of his presser. Sixer fans know this to be truer than anyone, as beating the average by a bit has basically been their cap since the 2001 finals run, and for a long time, that seemed to be good enough for the organization, so it's good to hear that that's not the case with Hinkie. He seemed reticent to actually use the word or even the idea of tanking, but he also didn't seem scared by the idea of being bad to get good if that's what the best path to championship-level success is. Bad news for Spencer Hawes, good news for the Sixer faithful.

4. He has no attachment--sentimental, vengeful or otherwise--to Andrew Bynum. Perhaps the most enlightening part of Hinkie's Q&A was when he responded to questions about Andrew Bynum by saying rather matter-of-factly that aside from the fact that the Sixers have early negotiating rights with him and (hopefully) a shitload of information about his medical condition, he viewed Bynum as no different than any other free agent the Sixers might pursue this off-season. I don't know if that makes him more or less likely to aggressively pursue Bynum--frankly, I doubt even Hinkie himself knows that yet--but it means that whatever his decision is, it won't be an emotional or personal one, which in itself is a very good thing.

5. He's the guy now--and there's just one of him. Regardless of how he does from here, it's exciting to have one singular voice at the top of the front-office food chain again--and since he's the unequivocal choice of majority owner Josh Harris, he should have a fairly long leash to work with. Compared with the last few years of front-office clutter, where nobody seemed to know who was really in charge (Rod Thorn? Tony DiLeo? Doug Collins? Will Smith?) and nobody seemed to have a firm idea of what direction the team was going in, it should be a lot easier for the Sixers to devise and execute a coherent long-term plan with a single guy with his finger on the button. Hopefully he leads the team in a positive direction, but really, nearly any direction is good for us at this point as long as it's consistent and logical.

Welcome aboard, Sam. You've got a super-unenviable task ahead of you in making this crappy, depressing team great again, but we have way more faith in your ability to do it than anybody else the Sixers have trotted out to supposedly steer the franchise back in a positive direction in a long, long time.

Difference in talent, power glaring as Phillies continue to lose to top teams

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Difference in talent, power glaring as Phillies continue to lose to top teams

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The gap in talent level that exists between the Phillies and some of the top teams in the majors has really been evident over the last eight games.
 
The Phillies have lost seven of those eight games to the Tigers, Cubs and Nationals. Tuesday night brought the latest defeat, a 5-1 loss to the National League East-leading Nats at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay). The Nats have won the first two games of the series and go for the sweep on Wednesday night.
 
While losing seven of their last eight, the Phillies have seen their feel-good story turn to dust. Their record has gone from 25-19 to 26-26 and their deficit in the NL East from two games to 5½.
 
“We had a good month and a half,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “When things are going good, they snowball. When things are going bad, they snowball. We’ve got to keep that snowball from rolling. We’ve got to get out of it.”
 
There are a number of reasons the Phillies have hit hard times. Poor offense is a big one. They have been held to two or fewer runs five times in their last seven losses and 20 times for the season. They are now averaging 3.15 runs per game, the lowest mark in the majors. Offense like that is the reason why Aaron Nola can pitch six innings of two-run ball and lose on two mistake pitches as he did Tuesday night. These pitchers have no margin for error.
 
One of the offensive’s big shortcomings is the lack of power. The Phils have been out-homered 15-7 in the last eight games. Washington hit four longballs on Tuesday night; the Phillies hit none. In fact, the Phillies had just four hits – period.
 
“We’re just getting out-homered every night,” Mackanin said. “We’re not hitting home runs. I feel like it’s a broken record. We’re not hitting.”
 
For the season, the Phillies have 39 homers. Only Atlanta has hit fewer.
 
And it doesn’t appear as if things are going to get all that much better any time soon. Management would consider trading for a bat close to the July trading deadline – if the team is in the race. With reality striking hard lately, it’s tough to see this team being in the race for anything but a top-10 pick in next year’s draft. In the short term, the Phils could soon have Cody Asche back on the roster.
 
“Our pitching overall has been very good,” Mackanin said. “We’ve just got to hit.”
 
The Nationals won this game with power and good starting pitching.
 
Right-hander Joe Ross held the Phils to a run over seven innings – an RBI triple by Cesar Hernandez.
 
Meanwhile, Jayson Werth capitalized on a poorly located fastball by Nola and homered two batters into the game. Daniel Murphy got Nola in the sixth to break a 1-1 tie.
 
Nola would like to have had both pitches back.
 
“The pitch to Werth was right down the chute,” he said. “With Murphy, I wanted to get it in a little further and I didn’t.”
 
Other than that, Nola was pretty good. He pitched out of trouble in the second inning and was supported by a double play started nicely at second by Hernandez and a nice catch by Odubel Herrera in center field.
 
“We’re doing some things right but not enough of them,” Mackanin said.
 
“That’s baseball,” Nola said of the lack of run support. “Sometimes we pitch bad and get a lot of run support. The guys are battling. I feel like we’re going to bounce back the next couple of games.”
 
The Nationals blew the game open with three runs in the ninth against reliever Colton Murray. Danny Espinosa smacked a two-run homer and Stephen Drew followed with an inside-the-park homer.
 
The two home runs deprived Nats closer Jonathan Papelbon a chance at a save as he recorded the final three outs against his old team.

Instant Replay: Nationals 5, Phillies 1

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Instant Replay: Nationals 5, Phillies 1

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The Phillies' late-May slide continued in a 5-1 loss to the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night.
 
Aaron Nola delivered a solid start, but got poor run support. The Phillies entered the game averaging 3.2 runs per game, lowest in the majors.
 
The Nationals scored all their runs on home runs.
 
The Phillies have lost nine of their last 11 games. They are 1-7 in their last eight and have gone from 25-19 and two games back in the NL East to 26-26 and 5½ games back.
  
Starting pitching report
Nola went six innings and allowed two runs, both on solo homers. He walked one and struck out six. He is 4-4 with a 2.88 ERA.
 
Washington right-hander Joe Ross (5-4) pitched a strong game. He gave up just three hits and a run over seven innings. He walked two and struck out five. Ross has given up just two runs over 14 innings in his last two starts.
 
Bullpen report
Jonathan Papelbon closed it out for the Nats in a non-save situation.
 
At the plate
The Phillies had just four hits. They have been held to two or fewer runs 20 times in their 52 games.

Cesar Hernandez tripled home the Phillies' only run.

Jayson Werth and Daniel Murphy accounted for the Nationals’ first two runs pair of solo homers against Nola. Danny Espinosa smacked a two-run homer off Colton Murray in the ninth and Stephen Drew followed with an inside-the-park homer.
 
Murphy also singled in the game. He had 47 hits in the month of May, tying a Washington/Montreal franchise record that had previously been shared by Al Oliver and Marquis Grissom.

Lineup stuff
Mackanin was trying to send Hernandez a message by batting him eighth (see story).
 
Bryce Harper did not play for Washington. He was hit on the right leg by a pitch in Monday night’s game.
 
Slumping Ryan Howard started at first base and went hitless in three at-bats to fall to .154. He hit .101 (7 for 69) in the month of May.
 
Howard will not start Wednesday night against Max Scherzer. He is 1 for 18 with 11 strikeouts against Scherzer. Tommy Joseph will start that game.
 
Minor matters
Cody Asche’s minor-league rehab stint expires Wednesday. He could rejoin the team at any time.
 
Up next
 The series concludes on Wednesday night. Lefty Adam Morgan (1-3, 6.67) pitches against Washington right-hander Scherzer (5-4, 4.05).

Drexel alum Ken Tribbett enjoys 'special' week for Union

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Drexel alum Ken Tribbett enjoys 'special' week for Union

CHESTER, Pa. — For more than a month, Union center back Ken Tribbett waited patiently on the sidelines, hoping to get the starting spot back that he had and then lost.

Last week, he indeed got back on the field … and then some.

After Joshua Yaro separated his shoulder in Orlando on Wednesday, Tribbett proceeded to notch his first MLS goal and assist, before playing the full 90 minutes in front of 30 family members in his home state of Colorado on Saturday.

It was quite the eventful week for someone who wasn’t expected to play at all during the road trip, let alone accomplish a couple of emotional milestones.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Tribbett told reporters from Tuesday’s training session after the Union returned home following hard-fought road draws vs. Orlando City SC and the Colorado Rapids. “For me, being out a month, mentally I had to make sure I stayed tuned in. And when I got my chance, I stepped in and was ready to go.”

Even if you are mentally prepared, it’s still not an easy thing to step in at center back in the middle of a game, considering that’s a position that rarely gets changed. Making things even more difficult was the fact that Yaro, who took over starting duties after Tribbett rolled his ankle in April, had been looking every bit like the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft.

“Josh was playing a great game in Orlando,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said. “If you go back and watch the tape, he was one of our top performers. Ken stepped in at the end of the first half, which is challenging at center back — not a position you like to sub at all. But Ken came in pretty seamlessly and got the goal, which is a bonus, obviously.”

You can call it a really big bonus.

Tribbett was never expected to even be in MLS this year after failing to get much notice following a standout career at Drexel.

And he certainly wasn’t expected to log much playing time this season with the Union, who added Yaro and Anderson, a Brazilian, to a position that already featured a rising star in Richie Marquez.

So surprises are nothing new for Tribbett, who started the first five games of the year after soaring up the depth chart in the preseason and now has a goal to add to his unlikely MLS resume.

But it’s no surprise to him.

“I don’t think shock is the right word because I expect a lot of myself and I expect to score a couple of goals this year,” Tribbett said. “So it was just more relief to get the first one out of the way. Any time you score, it’s jubilation, so that was awesome. And to tie the game in Orlando after going down 2-1 was really good for the team, so everything about it was just a special moment.”

Tribbett, who also had a secondary assist in Orlando, enjoyed another “special moment” just three days later when he got to play in the Denver area where he grew up. That was not something he could have imagined after his circuitous journey took him from Colorado to Drexel to the USL’s Harrisburg City Islanders and now to the Union.

“That was probably a moment I won’t ever forget,” Tribbett said. “I had about 20 or 30 family members there, and for a lot of them it was the first time they’ve seen me play professionally. So being back home in Colorado was a special feeling.”

Although the Union backline stayed organized and surrendered only a couple of shots on target in Colorado, Curtin did say it wasn’t the best performance from Tribbett. But the Union coach is ready to lean on him again for Wednesday’s game vs. the Columbus Crew at Talen Energy Stadium (7 p.m./TCN) while Yaro gets an MRI on his shoulder.

“He did fatigue at the end and I talked to him about it,” Curtin said of Tribbett. “He had a couple of little mistakes toward the end of the game. Part of that is your legs starting to fade. But it’s good for him that’s under his belt. He’ll be ready to go now [Wednesday] for the full 90 minutes.”

With the Union idle for two weeks following Wednesday’s game because of a Copa America layoff — and Tribbett’s place in the lineup uncertain from there — the Drexel alum is certainly excited to get back on the field for his first home game since April 8.

“It’s a very important game,” Tribbett said. “We want to go into the break with certain goals for ourselves. We want to be at the top of the conference, and if we win, we’ll achieve that goal. We want to keep one goal per game [allowed]. Right now, we’re one off that, so if we get a shutout tomorrow, we’ll be right back on track.”