Sixers' Hinkie says draft went exactly as planned

Posted: June 30, 2014

WHEN WORD of Joel Embiid's foot injury started to circulate, you could almost feel the disappointment of 76ers fans. With the third pick in the draft, the Sixers were ensured of landing the wonderfully gifted and superbly athletic Andrew Wiggings, the NBA-ready and tough Jabari Parker or a center in Embiid who has been compared to Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon. But when it was learned that the 7-foot Embiid had a stress fracture in the navicular bone in his right foot, the proverbial black cloud seemed to form again over a Sixers organization that won only 19 games last season.

But somewhere at the team's practice facility at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, general manager Sam Hinkie's face formed a grin, one much like the Grinch's when he figured out how to steal Christmas. Hinkie wasn't happy about the Kansas product's misfortune, but he did know the center was now his to be had.

"I sniffed opportunity the moment it happened, the moment it happened," Hinkie said yesterday at a news conference, the day afer the Sixers took Embiid with that third pick. "The moment he got hurt, we thought we might get him, and we might be the organization with just the set of owners, and we might be the one to do it."

The reasons they thought they were the ones to do it is because of the seemingly endless timeline they've given themselves to rebuild what they've stripped to the bare bones. Hinkie upped the amount of time Embiid would probably be sidelined and confirmed that the team's second pick, Dario Saric, would not be able to play in the NBA for at least 2 years because of his contract in Turkey.

"I've seen reported by some 4 to 6 months [for Embiid to be sidelined]," Hinkie said. "I don't know where they came from. That's not the number that I heard from the surgeon himself; it's 5 to 8 months. Guess what our approach will be? We will focus on the health of the player. We've had this discussion before. I don't want that to sound glib, because it's not. It is all that matters, the long-term health of the player. Will we be smart about that? Of course. Will we be thoughtful about that? I hope so. Will we be patient? Yes, yes. We will focus on giving him a chance to be as healthy as he can be, to have the kind of career that he can have. If he can be healthy - and we think there is a very, very good chance - if he can be healthy he can have a very productive NBA career."

For the organization, Thursday night was very productive. The sixers selected Louisiana-Lafayette guard Elfrid Payton at No. 10, but traded him to Orlando for Saric. Hinkie was able to also get a first-round pick in 2017 (originally given to Orlando by the Sixers in the Andrew Bynum deal) and a second-round pick in 2015. They also obtained K.J. McDaniels, Jerami Grant, Jordan McRae and Pierre Jackson in the second round.

With Embiid and Saric probably out for this season and a plethora of young rookies and others, it will be yet another season of losing streaks and eyes to the future.

"I've been here 13 months and I think we've been pretty consistent on what we've been focused on during that time," Hinkie said. "We want to add more and more talent and bring in more and more players and help us move forward with a goal of really trying to build something that can be championship-caliber. That doesn't happen overnight. We've been really open about that. We couldn't have predicted very well at 7:40 [Thursday] night what might have happened at the third pick and exactly who might be there and who might not, and we couldn't have predicted very well at all who was going to be there at the 10th pick at that moment, because there's so many factors in the marketplace that you have to figure out what they'd do to leave you with the set of options that you're left with. We focus on trying to make all the best decisions that we can, and we'll see where that takes us.

"We took a couple of 20-year-olds [Thursday] night. It's very clear that we're going to be growing with them. We talked about that with Michael [Carter-Williams] a year ago when we said that we felt like this is a player that we can grow with, and we still feel that way. We feel that he's a player that we can grow with."

And now they have more who fit that mold, though it won't be this season. Hinkie and coach Brett Brown insist that it's all good, that in order for this process to happen properly, patience is paramount.

"It is not even close to being demoralizing," Brown said of the patience he also must have. "It's real, and I get it. It just reconfirms in a more profound way that our words about trying to rebuild and being disciplined and patient went to a far greater level [Thursday] night. The owners, to ultimately approve the plan, is just fantastic.

"In the morning, I sit down behind closed doors with Sam and you go perfect-world stuff. Incredibly, we ended up where we wanted to. That, in all my years, has never really happened when you're dealing with the volatility, particularly with a draft like this year. To end up with Embiid and to end up with Saric, despite the fact that neither one of them will be on the court next year, this is a good thing, a great thing potentially for this program and this city."

On Twitter: @BobCooney76


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