Inside the Sixers: This tank job unlike any NBA has seen before

Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie (left), with coach Brett Brown, is simply taking advantage of the system.
Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie (left), with coach Brett Brown, is simply taking advantage of the system. (STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 17, 2014

The 76ers are a mess.

But you have to hand it to general manager Sam Hinkie: He is pulling off one eye-popping tank job, unlike any ever seen in the NBA before.

The Sixers lost their 20th in a row - tying the franchise record - with Saturday's 103-77 defeat at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies at the Wells Fargo Center. And they are expected to shatter the league's consecutive-loss record of 26 set by the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers later this month.

They have eight players who have had at least one stint in the NBA Development League.

They are the subjects of criticism and punch lines because of their sometimes-unwatchable play.

We've all known since summer that the Sixers had no intention of producing a winning product this season. The beginning of the "tanking" began when they traded away Jrue Holiday for Nerlens Noel and weren't active in free agency.

Some have argued the Sixers are making a mockery of the game by overhauling their roster with young and inexperienced players to get higher draft picks in 2014.

But all they are doing is taking full advantage of a system that rewards the worst teams.

Who can blame them?

Even if they kept Holiday and were active in free-agency, they couldn't come close to contending for an NBA title. Miami, Indiana, Oklahoma City, and San Antonio are simply on another level.

The best-case scenario would have them as a seventh seed in the Eastern Conference and making an early exit from the postseason.

But the objective is to win an NBA title, right?

So, if anything, Hinkie should be applauded.

Previous tank jobs in the NBA have involved limiting players' minutes or holding them out of games because of phantom injuries or illnesses.

The Sixers general manager simply assembled a roster with mostly D-League talent that guaranteed his squad wouldn't be able to compete. At the same time, the Sixers are evaluating players to see who could fit into their future.

"You have to remind yourself of why we are all here, the roster that we have," said coach Brett Brown, who came with a player-development background from the San Antonio Spurs.

Trying to find a diamond in the rough is perhaps the biggest priority, outside of securing a franchise-altering pick in the NBA draft in June.

That's why the team has on occasion had spirited morning workouts - instead of laid-back shootarounds - on game days.

Brown, a rookie NBA head coach, enjoys developing players the team believes can fit into its long-term plans. Part of that development involves evaluating them in new situations and new environments. The best way to do that is to sign them and see up-close what they'll do in the Sixers' team setting.

The Sixers have acquired nine players since the start of the season. Two of them, Lorenzo Brown and Dwayne Dedmon, were released after two 10-day contracts. Another, Danny Granger, had his contract bought out after being acquired from the Pacers and never wore a Sixers uniform.

The latest signee was guard Darius Johnson-Odom, who inked a 10-day contract on Friday.

"Our job is to keep looking," Hinkie said back in November. "Keep looking all the time. Keep looking internally and keep looking externally.

"Keep comparing all the time, who can help move us forward?"

But it's easier for some to make fun of the Sixers' current state instead of focusing on Hinkie's long-term plan.

Some of the criticism will subside once the season ends. The focus will turn to the Sixers' two first-round picks, five second-rounders, and ton of salary-cap space to lure free agents.

Right now, however, things are painful.

"But we don't want sympathy," Brown said. "We don't want 'Woe is me.' Life's good. We've just got to bide time and retain a level of patience."


kpompey@phillynews.com

@PompeyOnSixers

inquirer.com/deepsixers

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