Sam Hinkie on Colangelo, Okafor, Embiid and 2016 potential


Sam Hinkie on Colangelo, Okafor, Embiid and 2016 potential

Believe it or not, not much has changed for Sam Hinkie and his role as Sixers general manager since the addition of storied NBA executive Jerry Colangelo in December. If anything, Hinkie might even have a better grasp on how to go about the job with a veteran presence in the front office.

At least that’s the way Hinkie explained it during an impromptu press gathering after Wednesday’s practice at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, where Colangelo also spoke to reporters.

“It’s been pretty similar,” Hinkie said about his day-to-day activities. “It’s one more person to have to be able to reach out to and ping things off of, but otherwise it’s been pretty similar.”

Some thought that Colangelo’s arrival to the team meant the end for Hinkie as Sixers GM, but from the sound of things it’s just the opposite. Hinkie said he and Colangelo have bounced ideas off one another in Colangelo’s visits to Philadelphia as well as Hinkie’s trips to Colangelo’s home in Phoenix.

Hinkie sees Colangelo’s arrival as reassurance.

“If anything I’m a learner, so I ask questions,” Hinkie said. “It’s been fun. It’s fun to have an outside perspective. You get that sometimes, but it’s often hard to get someone as experienced as him to get their time and talk in great detail. So we’ve had many hours to spend some time and talk and look at the differences in perception and reality and get his thoughts on where we’re going.”

Though he often is reluctant to speak on the record and has not spoken to the local press publicly since training camp at Stockton College in late September, Hinkie offered his thoughts on an array of topics on Wednesday.

Among them:

On how the team has played nearly midway through the season
“I like how we’ve played as of late. We’ve played better since [Dec. 26] in Phoenix. I think our guys — Nerlens (Noel) in particular — found a new spirit once Ish (Smith) came. I’m hopeful we’ll play better. We’re getting our players the ball in better situations.”

On why the Sixers did not re-sign Ish Smith in the offseason or pick him up with a waiver claim at the beginning of the season
“I’m big on when you get new information, changing your mind. It’s important to do that. By that point we had seen our team for two-thirds of the season and we had two point guards on the roster to start the season and we signed four more in the offseason so we had six. Some of those guys have turned out very well, and we’re very proud of like T.J. McConnell, who is an NBA player and has done well in his role. Sometimes his role might be a little bigger than he’s been ready for, but he’s done well for us.

“Some of our decisions didn’t pan out. That’s part of it, too. I’m not surprised by that, either. So to get someone one who is highly competent and fits into our system and plays into our style of play and gets our best players the ball, that’s helped us.”

Hinkie on his manner of looking long term compared to Colangelo’s method
“I think even he would say our temperaments are different, but when you’ve been in the league for five decades you have a long-term view, too. Losing a coin flip for Lew Alcindor and spending the next 40 years looking for the next one and, by the way, carved an amazing career out in spite of that.”

Hinkie on Colangelo’s view that the Sixers could turn things around quickly, maybe even as early as 2016
“I think if you zoom out a little bit, the summary of what we’ve done is plant seeds for a harvest, and it’s not out of the question to think that the harvest could come in even this summer. Obviously none of our first-round picks from 2014 have hit the floor yet and that could change, and only one of our first-rounders from 2013 is still on the team, but there are other opportunities there for us.

“I think things could feel very different very quickly with a different level of talent.”

Hinkie on how Jahlil Okafor and Noel have played together this season
“I feel good about it so far. They’ve both had their ups and downs. This is Nerlens’ second year playing and it’s Jahlil’s rookie year. We’ve talked a lot about when Jahlil might draw his first double team — some folks in our office took odds on that. It turned out it was opening night.

“There’s a lot to learn. [Okafor's] remarkably gifted and there are a lot of things he has to get better at, and then Nerlens continues to evolve. [Noel's] energy level and ability to protect the rim and being able to chase the ball and play defense, we feel good about that.

“It’s been 40 games and they’ve played together in 36 and so far I feel good about it.”

Hinkie on Okafor’s progress and his ability as an NBA defender
“He was 19 years old scoring 19 points a game. I told people that if that continued we’d be just fine. There’s a lot for every NBA rookie to pick up on spacing and rules and being early and doing your work early and meeting your man and being a weakside rim protector, and he’s played a third of a season and I thing he’s done fine.”

Hinkie on Joel Embiid’s future in the NBA and his recovery from another offseason foot surgery
“We’re still optimistic about Jo. His injury is one that is important to everyone to take seriously, but his day-to-day approach has grown a lot. It’s grown a lot maybe by his situation or his own maturity and maybe by the way we’re handling it.

“We have a bigger team around him headed by Dr. David Martin, who we brought on this summer. We have a big set of experts to deal with him. We have taken a different approach to his body and a different approach to his rehab that has allowed him to improve. He’s stepped up, he’s really stepped up.

“I’d say his bone is healing really well — that’s probably even a little faster than we anticipated, but he’s not able to be on the floor in a real way. I would say he’s right on schedule. He had the first surgery in June, and he had the second surgery in the middle of August.”

Matisse Thybulle documents Sixers' first day in NBA 'bubble'

Matisse Thybulle documents Sixers' first day in NBA 'bubble'

Though the Sixers’ journey to Disney World for the NBA’s planned restart was not a typical road trip, some things haven’t changed.

Matisse Thybulle was still responsible for procuring Chick-fil-A for his veteran teammates. Tobias Harris still had a stint as “DJ Tobi.” And Joel Embiid still cracked jokes with his usual dry humor.

Thybulle posted a vlog on Saturday of the Sixers’ trip, documenting their flight to Orlando and early hours in quarantine. The players have since cleared the initial mandated quarantine and returned to practice Saturday for the first time since March 10.

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Day 1

A post shared by Matisse Thybulle (@theycallmetisse) on

The personalized pillow is a nice touch from the staff at the Grand Floridian Hotel. And, though Thybulle was missing a fork at first, it didn’t sound like he had any complaints about the food.

As he said, “The chicken is chicken.”

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How Sixers will ramp up Ben Simmons, other key players for NBA restart

How Sixers will ramp up Ben Simmons, other key players for NBA restart

The Sixers have transitioned into the next phase of their stay at Disney World.

After an initial mandatory quarantine period, players have been cleared to leave their rooms. The team’s practice Saturday afternoon was its first since March 10. Back then, reporters stood behind a table at the team’s practice facility in Camden, New Jersey, and spoke to players from a distance. Saturday, the dialogue was through Zoom.

There are a lot of new protocols for everyone to get used to, but Brett Brown was glad to have his team together again.

“To see our team and everybody’s got their sort of elbow bumps going down the aisle of the bus, and to see the team again under one bus roof, it’s fantastic,” he said. 

Brown is adapting to the new conditions and still determining exactly how he’ll coach his team during this period. He did, however, have a firm answer on how often he plans to play Ben Simmons as the Sixers ramp back up. Simmons had missed the team’s final eight games before the season was suspended with a nerve impingement in his lower back, but he said on July 2 that he’s feeling healthy and has added muscle

I think in general when you look at the scrimmage situations, you’re going to see something that’s quite frugal,” Brown said. “I believe when it gets into the regular-season games, you’re going to see normal numbers that I’ve played him. And so that answer isn’t delivered because of anything to do with health. It’s delivered just because I think that’s the way that I want to do it, and the way that I will do it with (Joel Embiid) and Tobias (Harris), as examples, because of their stature more than anything to do with health.

Embiid had been sidelined for five games in late February and early March with a left shoulder sprain. Harris has more minutes than any NBA player this season and played through a right knee issue earlier in the year.

The Sixers are set to have scrimmages on July 24, July 26 and July 28, and to resume play on Aug. 1 against the Indiana Pacers. 

Nobody in the NBA has experienced anything like this situation before, which Brown acknowledged. He’s in a position of attempting to find and capitalize on opportunities for normalcy while also making the best of the circumstances, with many restrictions in place. 

“This thing is fluid,” Brown said, “but I believe it will be normal in relation to no mask and me being able to look at Ben and Jo and talk to them (at practice),” Brown said. “Personally, I feel like it’s not normal. You’re going to have to feel different things through of how you deliver a message and how you coach a team again, and I’m excited to be able to do that.”

‘An open mind’ about concerns 

Harris’ outlook is an important one for the Sixers. He’s clearly viewed as a leader, someone his teammates respect and have talked to often while play has been suspended.  

In his first meeting with local reporters since before the hiatus, he gave his thoughts on players who have expressed their opinions on the league resuming, ranging from disagreement to doubt to hesitation. Joel Embiid said he “hated the idea,” while Shake Milton said he doesn't think the NBA should be playing.

Just try to understand their perspective, just to hear them out with an open mind,” Harris said. “Everybody takes this in a different way. You can look at it in many different facets, with what’s going on in the world, whether coming out here is safe or not as safe for some guys. Guys leaving family, guys being free agents. So everybody has a little bit of doubt in their mind with everything. 

“Just hear them out, understand them. Try to do our best with it. So I think that’s the best thing we can do. But everybody’s going to have their own type of inner feelings about it, and that’s not to say that mine is right or theirs is right … so just hearing them out.

The Bobi and Tobi Show? 

As the Sixers acclimate to the Disney environment, Harris has already received a visit from a familiar face. He had a fun exchange Friday with Boban Marjanovic, and there might be more “Bobi and Tobi” antics to come.

“Obviously it’s always good to be around Bobi and see him — as you saw yesterday, him in front of my hotel room,” Harris said. “It’s always light-hearted, it’s a fun thing. I definitely look forward to catching up with him while I’m out here. There’s some things in the works.”

At some point, perhaps a month or two down the line, this new routine might become comfortable for Harris and the Sixers. But it understandably sounds like that’s going to take a while. 

"Obviously there’s so much involved in it, from food to sleep to making sure we’re stretching right,” Glenn Robinson III said. “It kind of feels like a summer camp with everything going on. It’s easy to get distracted or caught up in everything, but our eyes are just on practice, getting better and just making sure that we’re good, as far as the team.”

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