Over the course of the season, the national media outlook on the Sixers has bounced back and forth between “the Sixers are a disgrace” and “the Sixers are fascinating.” The benchmark piece for the latter so far this year was the one written for ESPN the Magazine by Pablo Torre, but today’s Michael Sokolove piece in the New York Times is a must-read. Other than the fun tidbit on being told to stand with his back to the wall so LeBron James could walk down the hallway unimpeded in Cleveland, Sokolove dug in on Sam Hinkie:
Hinkie’s strategy has some precedent, though no team ever gone about it as systematically. Years ago, Red Auerbach, the canny head of the Boston Celtics, spent a first-round pick on Larry Bird, who, for complicated reasons, was eligible to be drafted even though he would be playing another year of college basketball. Auerbach, willing to wait while others were not, got a once-in-a-generation player.
I spent a good deal of time talking with Hinkie. He is an engaging man with a dry sense of humor who will enthusiastically share the thinking behind his moves — just not on the record. Like an operative in Washington, he wants to be understood but not quoted.
He also talked about Brett Brown’s futuristic, battery-powered basketball:
One day while I was in his office, he had a basketball sitting in the corner that was plugged into an outlet, charging. He explained to me that a computer chip in it could measure the arc of shots, speed of passes and even how hard a player pounds his dribble. He had used the ball with his 10-year-old son’s team, which he coached whenever his schedule allowed it, and was looking forward to trying it at a Sixers practice next season.
And on the feel of the team:
The practice that morning went for more than three hours and was loud and boisterous. Brown had them play a three-on-three tournament — the winners got to watch as the losers went through a short conditioning drill. The losers in a five-on-five scrimmage did push-ups. The players whooped and hollered when their teams made a shot, and argued over foul calls like they were in a playground pickup game. It was a happy gym. If you just listened to the sounds, you would have thought the Sixers were a winning team. And, in a way, they were.
The whole thing, while long, is fascinating.