Sixers demand your patience -- like it or not


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.

Sixers using loss to playoff-hungry Pacers as learning moment

Sixers using loss to playoff-hungry Pacers as learning moment

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Pacers' desire to earn a playoff spot, as well as their past experience getting there, was evident in Sunday’s 107-94 win over the Sixers.

The Sixers have been and will continue to run into opponents who are fighting for the postseason. 

The Pacers are caught in a battle for one of the final positions in the Eastern Conference. A victory over the Sixers put them at seventh (37-36), two games ahead of the eighth seed. 

it is a learning experience for the Sixers on what is necessary to play beyond April 12. 

"It's a chance for us to go see what it really takes," Brown said. "We admit all the time, this time of year is different than it is in January. It will be different in a few weeks when you watch the playoffs. It's really a whole different physicality and mindset. You feel it."

The Sixers trailed the Pacers by six points at halftime. The Pacers burst into the third with a 17-4 run, including 14 straight. The Sixers fell into a 25-point deficit in the fourth.

While the field goal shooting was close (42.7 percent by the Pacers compared to 39.8 percent by the Sixers), the Sixers shot 14 for 41 from three. The Pacers were a more efficient 7 for 17. 

"They really did a good job of guarding our guys, guarding our structure," Brown said. "I felt like collectively the lack of pop, the lack of offensive energy, and I give them credit for that, along with one or two miscues on defense."

The Sixers were attacked by a collaborative Pacers effort. Paul George, who Brown considers one of his "personal favorites," scored a game-high 21 points (eight rebounds). In all, seven Pacers scored in double digits. Myles Turner led the defensive charge with a 17-point, 16-rebound double-double. 

"That's a team that's been in the playoffs," T.J. McConnell said. "They have experience. You can't really learn experience. You have to be in the league for a while to gain it. They have that and they showed it tonight."

The Pacers also took care of the details of a box score. They outrebounded the Sixers, 51-48. They also attempted 29 free throws compared to the Sixers' 14 and outscored them by 14 points at the line. 

"It's going to be up another notch because they're trying to make the playoffs," Robert Covington said. "We have to see how they change the pace, how aggressive they are on defense, and see how they execute their sets. That's one thing you learn from."

The Sixers' goal is to get to that stage of contending. They began to build traction in January when they went 10-5. It was a small window into what is required to compile enough wins to reach postseason status. 

"Playing for a playoff spot is what you want to be out there doing," Gerald Henderson said. "I think we still play hard but there was a real ... you see when we were creeping up there in the standings how hard we were really playing every single night and how we were competing every game. We got kind of a feel of that ourselves, but these teams are trying to get in. They're shooting all their bullets. They're fighting for their lives."

Five of the Sixers' last seven games have been against teams ranging from title contenders (Warriors) to those clawing for a postseason spot (Bulls).

In their remaining nine games this season, the Sixers will face the Hawks, Cavaliers, Raptors, Bulls, Bucks and Pacers again. Every game matters for these teams, and it's not going to get any easier for the Sixers.

Best of NBA: Celtics top Heat, inch closer to Cavs for Eastern Conference's top spot

Best of NBA: Celtics top Heat, inch closer to Cavs for Eastern Conference's top spot

BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas scored 30 points, including 20 in the second half, and the Boston Celtics beat the Miami Heat 112-108 on Sunday night for their fourth straight victory.

The win moved Boston within percentage points of Cleveland for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics have one more victory than the Cavaliers, but also one more loss. Boston (48-26) also equaled its win total from last season.

Jae Crowder added 25 points and six rebounds for the Celtics.

Tyler Johnson had 24 points and James Johnson scored 20 for the Heat, who are a half-game ahead of the Bulls for the final playoff spot in the East. Chicago beat Milwaukee earlier in the day (see full recap).

Klay Thompson sparks Warriors to seventh straight win
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Klay Thompson scored 21 of his 31 points in the second half and the Golden State Warriors pulled away in the fourth quarter to beat the Memphis Grizzlies 106-94 on Sunday for their seventh straight win.

Stephen Curry added 21 points and 11 assists, Andre Iguodala scored 20 and Draymond Green had nine points and seven rebounds as the Warriors (59-14) extended their lead to 2 games over the San Antonio Spurs in the race for the top spot in the West.

The win did more than keep Golden State in front of San Antonio. It also kicked off a stretch of five games in eight days when the Warriors will face playoff contenders Houston (twice), San Antonio and Washington.

Mike Conley scored 29 points, Zach Randolph added 15 and JaMychal Green had 13 points and eight rebounds for the Grizzlies, who were without center Marc Gasol (left foot strain) (see full recap).

Kings rally from 18 down in fourth to stun Clippers
LOS ANGELES -- Willie Cauley-Stein made a follow shot with two seconds left and the Sacramento Kings rallied from an 18-point, fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 98-97 on Sunday.

Down 85-67 early in the fourth, the Kings rallied while Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan were resting. Buddy Hield hit three 3-pointers in the final minutes, pulling the Kings to 96-93 with 2:10 to play.

Griffin made one of two free throws with 1:57 left before the Kings cut it to 97-96 on Langston Galloway's 3-pointer with 1:23 to play.

After Jamal Crawford missed a 3-pointer, Cauley-Stein finished off a fast break with the deciding basket.

Darren Collison led the Kings with 19 points, while Hield added 15 as the Kings snapped a four-game losing streak and won for only the third time in 15 games (see full recap).