Sam's Club: How Sam Hinkie is rebuilding the 76ers

Posted: October 28, 2013

Right now, winning isn't everything for Sam Hinkie.

Changing the 76ers' culture, bringing players into their pipeline, hiring employees, and clearing up cap space have been the general manager's top priorities since he was hired in May.

In the meantime, he has assembled a roster made mostly of spare parts. It's a team that could lose 72 games this season.

But if his plan works, in a few seasons Hinkie could be recognized as one of the NBA's most influential general managers.

His goal is to build a top-notch organization and compete at the highest level.

"The team in May was a long way from that," said Hinkie, who inherited a team that had a 34-48 record last season. "It's nobody's fault. There's a big gap from here and there, because of some of the things that happened prior. And that's OK."

But the Houston Rockets' former assistant general manager had a big decision to make.

"Do you say that we are in this place, and so I'll just try to make any improvement that I can in the next 10 days, because that will be fun?" he said. "Or do you say, if I don't think about the next 700 days or the next 1,000 days or the next 1,200 days, who will?"

Unpopular route

While the moves he made weren't always popular, Hinkie decided to reshape the franchise.

He traded all-star point guard Jrue Holiday on draft night to the New Orleans Pelicans for rookie center Nerlens Noel.

He did not re-sign free agents Andrew Bynum, Damien Wilkins, Nick Young, Dorell Wright, Royal Ivey, or Charles Jenkins.

Instead, he made risk-free deals to acquire fringe players who are either in the last year of their deals or have non-guaranteed or partially guaranteed contracts.

Hinkie also acquired the rights to Furkan Idemir (Turkey) and Arsalan Kazami (Iran), two power forwards who are playing professionally overseas.

And he was able to add a first-round pick and two second-round picks in the 2014 draft. As a result, the Sixers will have two first-rounders and three second-rounders in what could be one of the deepest drafts in some time.

In addition to that, the Sixers could have more than $37 million of cap space next season to lure talented free agents to Philadelphia.

"He's backed it up," said new head coach Brett Brown, talking about Hinkie's vision. "It's a deliberate thing. It's a patient thing. It's a strategy how to design this."

Brown was aware of Hinkie's vision when he accepted the coaching job in August.

"And it's playing out as was told," said the former San Antonio assistant.

What's the next step?

The Sixers have a long way to go before they become the organization they strive to be.

"Player development, of course, you hear us talk about that," Hinkie said. "That's going to be a big focus for us during the season."

As a way to put the infrastructure in place, Hinkie lured Brown away from San Antonio, where he had a reputation as one of the best shooting coaches in the league.

The Sixers also hired assistants Chad Iske, Lloyd Pierce, Billy Lange, and Greg Foster, who all have solid player-development backgrounds.

With those assistants in place, they put together a plan to ensure the players make the most of their abilities and implemented a strict diet and practice regimen.

The players are required to arrive at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine at 9:30 a.m. After eating a mandatory, player-specific, nutritional breakfast, they go through individual player-development drills and lift weights before the 11 a.m. practice. Then they are required to get specific post-practice meals at the facility.

"A change in our culture is definitely something that we are focused on," Hinkie said. "We talk to players about the opportunity in front of them."

There's a thought that veterans Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes, and Thaddeus Young could get traded this season.

Turner and Hawes are in the final years of their contracts. The Sixers have until Thursday to offer them extensions.

"We are open to anything," Hinkie said of roster moves.

One thing is for sure: The 14 players on the roster after Saturday's cut won't be the same 14 players on the team all year.

"Look at our players and you look at our contracts alone and realize some of the decisions we are making for now," Hinkie said, "but that we'll continue to evaluate people in our pipeline."

Evaluating talent to add to the pipeline is something Hinkie has done since accepting the job.

He was a fixture at May's NBA predraft camp in Chicago and the Orlando and Las Vegas Pro Summer Leagues in July.

The Sixers brought 22 players to camp. And Hinkie will monitor the play of the Delaware 87ers, the Sixers' NBA Development League team, and scout talent at college and overseas games this season.

"Part of the focus of any organization is to be able to consistently bring in good players," Hinkie said. "Sometimes solid, sometimes good. Sometimes if you are lucky, great. That's been a big part of the focus of our front office."

Long-term goals

Losses are bound to pile up this season. As a result, the Sixers may be nothing more than a punch line on sports-talk radio and around the NBA.

But Hinkie's not concerned. His goals are long-term.

"My favorite people, the people that I respect the most, are people that really view themselves as stewards for someone else," he said. "I take that pretty seriously all the time."

Hinkie's goal is to build something Sixers fans can be proud of.

"I want to build it in a way that's really special and that has a chance to be lasting," he said, "and it doesn't just scratch today's itch."


kpompey@phillynews.com

@PompeyOnSixers

www.inquirer.com/deepsixer

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