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.”

Nerlens Noel trade: Sixers simply did not get enough

Nerlens Noel trade: Sixers simply did not get enough

Let's start with this: The Sixers did not need to trade Nerlens Noel. 

They could have kept him through the end of the season, made him an offer in restricted free agency and decide whether or not to match another team's offer sheet.

The Sixers held the cards. If a team like Portland or Dallas were to offer Noel $17 million a year or something this offseason, the Sixers could have either matched or let him walk.

If they chose not to match, they'd lose Noel for nothing.

So, given the return, the only explanation for Thursday's deadline trade of Noel to the Mavericks was that the Sixers definitively concluded they did not want to match a high salary for Noel.

Either that or they just really, really love Justin Anderson.

The trade was initially sold as Noel to Dallas for Andrew Bogut, Justin Anderson and a protected first-round pick.

In reality, the trade is Noel for Anderson and two second-round picks.

Bogut wants to be a free agent and will either be traded or bought out, according to multiple reports. So forget about him.

The 2017 first-round pick? It's top-18 protected, meaning the Sixers would get it only if the Mavericks pick 19 to 30. The Mavs currently own the NBA's seventh-worst record, so it would take a miracle for them to win enough games to decrease their draft stock that much.

If the pick does not convey in 2017 -- and again, it's not happening -- the Sixers instead get Dallas' second-round picks in 2017 and 2018.

So, yeah ... it's Noel for Anderson and a pair of seconds.

Ersan Ilyasova netted the Sixers two seconds. The only difference between that trade and this trade? Justin Anderson.

The expectation now, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, is that Jahlil Okafor will stay with the Sixers. It seems like they were just so uninspired by offers they received for Okafor that they instead looked to trade another big for value. 

But in this case, they didn't get value for Noel. They got the perception of value.

Unless Justin Anderson becomes a better player than Nik Stauskas or Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot.

Weird move.

Joel Embiid to miss Sixers' next 4 games, targeting March 3 return

Joel Embiid to miss Sixers' next 4 games, targeting March 3 return

Joel Embiid will miss the Sixers' next four games to minimize the risk of another aggravation of his left knee injury.

Embiid's targeted return date is March 3 against the Knicks. He'll miss games against the Wizards, Knicks, Warriors and Heat.

While Sixers doctors do not think Embiid is game-ready, they're encouraged by the progress he's made.

Embiid practiced fully with the Sixers on Thursday for the second straight day.

"I feel great. I want to play. If it was my decision, I’d be playing," Embiid said after practice Wednesday.

"I want to play, but those guys, they know what they’re doing. You’ve just got to trust the process."

Embiid has missed 14 of the Sixers' last 15 games, playing only against the Rockets in a nationally televised, sell-out game on Jan. 27.