Hot on the heels of Brett Brown’s contract extension press conference, Zach Lowe dropped a rare one-on-one conversation with Sam Hinkie on ESPN.com. There’s a lot of talk about how quiet Hinkie is behind the scenes, but here, he’s incredibly candid.
On Kendall Marshall playing his first game tonight, Hinkie admits he “predicted it wrong” and thought he’d be ready to open the season. “That’s my fault. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, and I’m sure I’ll make more.” And that’s just the short version:
It has been Hinkie’s choice to steer away from quality, young-ish veteran free agents who would cost real money and help win games — Cory Joseph types. He has tried instead to churn the bottom of the roster for minimum-salaried players who might become super-cheap, and super-tradable, contributors. “We could have chosen safer options,” Hinkie says. “Many in the world would have us choose safer options — keep this player, instead of taking a gamble on a player whose name you don’t know. But when that player becomes Robert Covington, people are excited. We’ve chosen that sort of thing very often.”
That has come at a cost, and Hinkie admits the cost might be higher than he figured. “Is there a better balance we could strike with our roster? There may very well be.”
Lowe says that with Colangelo now on board, the fans can expect the Sixers to bring in a veteran “possibly before Christmas,” singling out former Sixer Elton Brand. So is Colanelgo just making all the calls now? No one’s sure:
Hinkie has no plans to step down, and remains confident in his power. “Our owners made it very clear they want me leading us long-term,” Hinkie says. “Adding one more voice will make the conversation richer. Might it be challenging at times? I’m sure it will be. But making big decisions shouldn’t be easy — it shouldn’t be that you have an idea, and you get to execute it without anyone questioning it.”
Despite reports to the contrary, every move in the Hinkie era has been the product of vigorous internal debate. Hinkie had to sell the ownership group, led by Josh Harris, hard on dealing Michael Carter-Williams for a lightly-protected pick from the Lakers, sources say. People inside the organization aren’t sure how Colangelo’s presence will change that process, other than the obvious addition of a loud and respected voice. Harris has always been the hammer. It may be that if Colangelo and Hinkie clash, the winner will be the one who persuades Harris. It also may turn out that Harris develops a rapport with Colangelo, and Hinkie winds up ostracized — and eventually fired, in favor of Colangelo’s son, Bryan, the former GM of the Raptors and Suns. No one really knows yet.
Lowe mentions the Sixers’ offseason talks with Jimmy Butler, but also mentioned an as-yet unknown talk with Kawhi Leonard, which went nowhere. “They chose to stay with the teams that drafted them,” Hinkie conceded. And he admits that he might not be the best guy when it comes to dealing with human people:
Agents find Hinkie non-communicative and stubborn. He has lost players, including K.J. McDaniels and Glenn Robinson III, over his insistence they sign four-year, non-guaranteed contracts, and he acknowledges he has probably waived players without first notifying their agents — a major irritant among player representatives.
“We’ve tried to communicate clearly with agents, but that has been hard at times,” Hinkie says. “We’ve had a lot of transactions. That’s hard. That has caused some angst. Things unfold quickly, and maybe too quickly in that sense.”
And that’s where Colangelo comes in, at the very least. Hinkie is that overly analytical guy in college who is really good at group projects, and you get a good grade, but it’s hell actually working with him. “I’ve been quiet,” Hinkie admits to Lowe. “And in that vacuum, people fill in with their own notions of me and what’s going on. If that has painted the organization in a bad light, I don’t like that. Jerry and I have already talked about how it would help it I would be more open — if we did a better job of bringing fans along with us.”
So what happens now? Lowe says what fans following the “process” already knew: Summer 2016 is big. The salary cap goes up all around the league. The Sixers have four possible first round picks. It’ll be a free agent bonanza. Dario Saric is coming. Joel Embiid’s foot might work. But before then, don’t be surprised if there are some new (somewhat recognizable) faces in Sixers uniforms.