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.
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.”