How Some NBA GM’s Viewed the Hinkie Era: “I’ll Flat Out Call it Jealousy”
Former Sixers general manager and team president Sam Hinkie hasn't spoken to anyone since he resigned from the team with a 13-page letter back in early April.
While the Sixers are moving on from the Sam Hinkie era, his finger prints will remain on the Sixers roster for years to come. Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, Jahlil Okafor and Ben Simmons are the biggest names so far that Hinkie can be given credit for - but remember the Sixers have two first round picks in next years loaded class and two more in the 2019 draft thanks to his work.
Simply put, Sixers fans are excited for the upcoming season because of the work Hinkie put in over the last three dreadful seasons, yes there was a method to the madness.
ESPN The Magazine recently did a feature on Hinkie, Jordan Brenner was the author, who told me the original story was supposed to be on how Hinkie evaluates players and the next step of the Sixers now famous "Process". Brenner sat down with Hinkie to watch film with him and also to see how he evaluates talent live in person at a couple of NCAA tourney games in Providence during this years tournament.
Many saw Hinkie as a introvert, a analytical stat nerd and wouldn't look at his is a "basketball guy", but Brenner paints a different picture of the former Sixers GM.
"He's actually very much not like he is portrayed," Brenner described about Hinkie the man. "He's easy-going, laughs quire a bit, self-deprecating and that's what frustrated people around him who knew the real Sam Hinkie."
"Its ridiculous to think that a NBA owner would hire someone who didn't know basketball - its moronic - I honestly don't know what to say to those people, its ridiculous." Brenner continued when asked about the notion that Sam wasn't a "basketball guy".
While many didn't see that side of Hinkie during his tenure in Philadelphia, rival GM, agents and coaches around the league did, having to deal with him on a regular basis, they spoke to Brenner about how what it was like dealing with him and how they felt about what Hinkie was able to do during this Sixers tenure.
"I'll flat out call it jealousy," Brenner admitted when asked about the feelings from other GM's that he spoke to for this peace. "A couple of general managers actually used that word. Some of the criticism of him was motivated by exactly that."
"The reason it bothered people was they know it would wok," Brenner continued.
While the Sixers were systematically tearing their mediocre roster down, piece-by-piece, with hopes to build it back up with younger, more talented options - other league GM's were left battling it out in NBA purgatory - mediocrity.
"There are very few ways to acquire elite talent in the NBA and elite talent wins games in the NBA, more than any other sport." Brenner explained. "The best way to do it is through the draft, and if your bad long enough and get enough lottery picks - you're going to get good - most people didn't have the length of time to do that and I think it frustrated them."
While the Sixers and their fans suffered on the court for three seasons, they didn't miss much. While they were adding young, top level talent, other were sitting in mediocrity watching the Cavs beat the Warriors, the Warriors beat the Cavs, the Spurs beat the heat and the Heat beat the Spurs.
The NBA is a league of a few haves and a ton have middle-of-the-road have-not's.
Hinkie and the Sixers tried to remove themselves from the middle, by dropping to the bottom - suffering on-the-floor, but winning off-the-court, in hopes of joining the Spurs, Warriors, Cavs and Heat.
"Sam and ownership were so much on the same page, they were going to do this their way," Brenner stated.
In the piece Brenner talks about the Sixers commitment to player development through the eyes of veteran Elton Brand, who the Sixers brought to the team midway through another rough start to the season.
Brand tells Brenner in his ESPN The Magazine story:
"I just thought everything about the organization was low-grade and terrible, that they weren't even trying," Brand says. "I get there and I'm blown away. The new practice facility, the training staff, the doctors they had on staff, the scientific people they brought in -- I was like, 'Whoa, this certainly isn't what I thought it was.' This is a high-quality, top-notch organization. They had every advantage conceivable for the players. I was surprised."
So while that perception on the outside might be fair, perception is rarely reality and on the inside the Sixers were run with a precise plan, one that other envied and hoped to duplicate, but Hinkie beat them to it and now it may never happen again.
"It's going to be harder for people to follow suit," Brenner explained. "Because of the action the league took here, and the gave that the league influenced Philly's ownership in such a way that not only did they put a stop to this process, Sam lost his job - there are a lot of people I spoke to who felt that was the league sending a message through Sam."
Brenner, who said he interviewed over 15 GMs, agents and people in the league for the piece, said this was the NBA's way to show other teams that they better not try to follow the Sixers model. This was their way to show how concerned they are about teams tanking and that you will lose you job if you do try to emulate what Philadelphia did.
"I hope he is just enjoying life, relaxing a little bit and figuring out what's next," Brenner said when asked what he thinks Hinkie is up to today.