Sixers demand your patience -- like it or not

ap-sixers-saric-embiid.jpg

Sixers demand your patience -- like it or not

Sam Hinkie told you this would happen. He told you the rebuild would take a while. He told you the Sixers would be the tortoise and not the hare. Maybe you didn’t believe him. Maybe you should have.

Here’s what Hinkie said almost a year ago after trading for Nerlens Noel, who was recovering from an ACL injury. Here’s what he said while people looked at the roster and scoffed. Here’s what he said while some fans and media members got all worked up that the Sixers still didn’t have a head coach at the time.

“I’m only trying to do what I think is right,” Hinkie said, “which is to build something that our owners want and I think that I want and I think our fans want -- which is to build something that is lasting and build something that is special with a capital ‘S.’”

Capital “S” for special? Could be. Capital “S” for slow? Definitely. If you didn’t already understand that Hinkie is a patient man, he made sure to re-teach the lesson Thursday evening.

The Sixers took Joel Embiid with the third pick of the 2014 NBA draft. The Kansas center is a special talent -- a man league executives have mentioned, in all seriousness, in the same sentence as Hakeem Olajuwon -- but he also fractured the navicular bone in his foot. The recovery time for that injury is approximately four to six months, though it may take Embiid nine to 12 months before he plays competitive basketball again. The Sixers had his medical records and evidently felt confident that he’ll make a recovery (or at least they felt like it was a good gamble).

For the second year in a row, the Sixers acquired a big man who will spend most, if not all, of the season convalescing. Last year it was Noel. This year it will be Embiid. This is Ron Burke’s line, and it’s a good one: The Sixers’ colors are redshirt, white and blue now.

There’s more. With Hinkie there is always more, and it almost always requires more patience.

The Sixers took Elfrid Payton with the 10th pick, then flipped him to the Magic for Croatian forward Dario Saric. If you’ve read any of my pre-draft copy, you know that makes my inner hoops nerd quite happy. It might make you less happy. Saric is only 20. He’s regarded as an excellent passer and capable ball handler, and he’s working on his three-point shot. All to the good. But he recently signed a three-year deal with a Turkish team that many people believe will keep him in Europe for the next two years. At least.

With their first two picks, the Sixers took two guys you won’t be seeing in a Sixers' uniform for a while. I’m cool with that. It’s understandable if you aren’t. But, then, you don’t have a choice.

Maybe this will help. The Saric trade also includes two draft picks: a second-rounder in 2015 and a first-rounder in 2017. That 2017 pick is significant. It’s reportedly protected 1-11 in 2017, or it rolls over to 2018 (protected 1-8).

Why is that significant? Because it helps Hinkie and the Sixers undo the errors of the previous administration. Just as Hinkie made a move that could pay down the Arnett Moutlrie debt, that first-round selection would undo the first-rounder the Sixers were scheduled to forfeit to the Magic in 2017 as part of the Andrew Bynum trade. To review, that means Hinkie got two picks and a player to move back two spots. That’s a really good haul -- and he evidently pulled it off at the last second.

Feel any better now? No? That is something of a shame, because the Sixers will continue to ask for your patience. And if you don’t give it? If you refuse to buy tickets? That won’t sway them. If you buy one ticket or all the tickets, it won’t matter. The price of the franchise will keep going up whether you endorse the plan or not.

But how about this. One more sweetener. Yes, the Sixers are likely headed for another dismal season. Count on lots of losses in 2014-15. But also count on them landing a high pick in the 2015 lottery. More assets. More young pieces. Then you can look forward to another new guy. And (maybe) a healthy Embiid. And eventually, in a few years, Saric. (Also maybe.)

Imagine how much fun the Sixers might be in 2017. Seriously, imagine it, because that’s all you have right now –- your imagination.

Hinkie’s approach is clear: Acquire assets, remain cap flexible, stay patient. He’s proven to be really good at all three of those things even if you can’t stand that last component.

If, like me, you’re on board with the slow, slow, how-slow-can-they-go method, welcome. Sit back and enjoy the show. It’s going to last for a while. If not, if you need a pick-me-up, here’s a picture of Joel Embiid. Doesn’t he look happy? Look how happy he looks.

Tim Quarterman: Ben Simmons at PG will 'work out well' for Sixers

Tim Quarterman: Ben Simmons at PG will 'work out well' for Sixers

There are only a handful of people who have played basketball extensively with Ben Simmons, given he has been sidelined thus far into his rookie season with a foot injury. Those who spent Simmons’ freshman year at LSU with him have firsthand insight into the NBA player he has the potential to become.

“He's definitely a team player,” Blazers rookie guard Tim Quarterman, who played with Simmons at LSU, said Friday. “He's a pass-first person. He wants to see his teammates do well. I think when he comes back to play, that's what he'll bring to Philly. He's not one of those people who just tries to go out there to get a 100 points. He's a good teammate.”

Quarterman left school after his junior year and earned a spot on the Trail Blazers' roster. He and Simmons have different stories: Simmons was the first overall pick; Quarterman went undrafted. Simmons has has been out since training camp; Quarterman, while playing sparingly, has experienced live NBA action. Still, the two have shared in the journey of life in the league. 

“It's a cool process going through our rookie season together,” Quarterman said before the Trail Blazers faced the Sixers Friday. “Even though he's not playing right now, he's working to get on the court. I'm sure he'll do great when he gets back out there. I got a chance to talk to him last night. Everything's been good so far.”

The Sixers got a small glimpse of Simmons during training camp before he suffered a Jones fracture on the final day. He recently began participating in 5-on-0 drills. Simmons also has been putting up shots after practice and doing light courtwork during pregame warmups. 

Brett Brown has said he intends to start the 6-foot-10 Simmons at the one spot when he returns. As part of his multi-faceted rehab, Brown has been giving Simmons written tests in which he has to navigate various in-game situations as the point guard. Simmons played point-forward at LSU, where he averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists. 

“He'll be able to space the floor,” Quarterman said of Simmons at the point. “He can see over the defense and make passes that some little guards can't. He can defend. He can move his feet well. I think it'll work out well.”

It remains to be seen when the former teammates will both be suited up in the same NBA game. There is no timetable set for Simmons’ return. The Sixers face the Trail Blazers for their second and final meeting of the regular season on March 9 in Portland. 

“It's cool for both of us to be making the best of our opportunity,” Quarterman said.

Sixers-Hawks 5 things: Looking to keep win streak alive without Joel Embiid

Sixers-Hawks 5 things: Looking to keep win streak alive without Joel Embiid

Sixers (15-26) at Hawks (25-18)
7 p.m. on CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 6:30

Coming off a thrilling comeback win over the Trail Blazers on Friday, the Sixers travel to Atlanta to take on the Hawks at Phillips Arena in the second game of a back-to-back. 

1. Going streaking
It's been a long time since the Sixers have had anything resembling a winning streak. No longer is that the case, as the Sixers have won three straight games, with Friday's win capping their fifth-straight home win. 

The Sixers have also won eight of their last 10 games — with only the Warriors posting a better record during that span — and are playing with a confidence and energy that hasn't been seen in Philly for years. 

One streak they'll try to end, however, is their recent losing streak to the Hawks, as the Sixers haven't beaten Atlanta in six straight matchups.

2. Injury scare
Fans at the Wells Fargo Center held their breath Friday night as Joel Embiid came down awkwardly on his left knee and came up limping. 

Embiid ran to the locker room on his own and was cleared to return to the game, though he never did. He was diagnosed with a left knee contusion and said after the game that everything was fine.

"I'm great," he said. "The knee's fine. They did an MRI and stuff, and everything looked good."

Despite not having Embiid for the final minutes of Friday's game, the Sixers were able to pull together and rally for a 93-92 win over the Blazers. 

Injury precaution aside, Embiid won't travel with the Sixers to Atlanta, as he was scheduled to miss the game against the Hawks because it was the second game of a back-to-back. 

3. Playoffs?
Hey, crazier things have happened, so let's not rule this one out. 

With the Sixers in the midst of their hottest stretch in recent years, Embiid has the team and city thinking playoffs. After notching yet another win Friday night, the Sixers are just 4½ games back from the eighth seed in the East. 

"I look at it every day," Embiid said Friday. "We’re coming for those playoff spots. We’re going to keep on getting better, keep working and winning games."

If the wins actually do keep coming, this might be something to keep an eye on as we get deeper into the season. 

4. Tall task 
With Embiid scheduled to miss Saturday's game against the Hawks, the Sixers will lean on Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel to carry the load in place of their superstar center. 

A night after facing a dynamic backcourt featuring Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, the Sixers will turn their attention to the dominant frontcourt duo of Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard. 

Millsap comes in averaging 17.8 points and 8.1 rebounds, while Howard averages 13.7 points and an incredible 13 rebounds per game. Without Embiid, the Sixers might have a hard time stopping Millsap and Howard from having their way in the paint. 
 
5. This and that
• The Sixers have made three go-ahead field goals in the final five seconds of the fourth quarter/OT this season — the most in the NBA.

• The Sixers have 15 wins at the halfway point of the season. They had just 10 wins total all of last season. 

• Jahlil Okafor last played on Jan. 14 against the Wizards, posting 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the floor. 

• The Sixers are 13-17 with Embiid, but just 2-9 without him.