Monday’s report that the Sixers wanted Daryl Morey to fill their vacant general manager position probably raised the obvious question.
If true, why not just get Sam Hinkie on the phone?
This was the crux of the Twitter reaction:
“Well, if the Sixers are looking for an analytics-focused and forward-thinking executive, I can think of someone who might fit the bill!”
Of course, a Hinkie redux would be contingent on both parties putting aside any lingering ill-will, if it exists. It was about 25 months ago that Morey’s former second-in-command resigned as the Sixers’ GM and wrote a 13-page manifesto explaining his thoughts and decision making and touching on the bright future he saw for the franchise. I have no idea what kind of relationship Hinkie now has with Josh Harris and ownership, but Bryan Colangelo is gone, Jerry Colangelo is basically a lame duck peripheral character at this point, and Brett Brown, I assume, would not have any qualms with Sam assuming his former position.
For what it’s worth, this is what Harris said when he was asked about possibly getting in touch with Hinkie during last month’s Colangelo press conference:
“We have a lot of respect for Sam and we appreciate how he’s positioned our franchise. We haven’t started thinking about (it). We’re going to do our best to find the absolute best GM moving forward and the absolute best leader for our basketball organization. We need to start to think about that now. The last week has been about moving as quickly as we could through this process.”
That’s one thing to think about, the relationships that exist in the upper levels of the Sixers’ organization. Maybe the damage is irreparable, or maybe it’s nonexistent.
Beyond that, the more I think about a possible Hinkie reunion, the less it makes sense, and I’m not sure why. I think the story would be interesting, i.e., “Sam Hinkie rides in on a winged horse to reclaim his old job, complete the Process, and lead the Sixers to a title,” but it also feels as though we’ve moved far beyond Hinkie at this point.
Even now the Sixers fan base is fractured along generational lines, with incessant argument over whether or not the Process worked (and if it did, was it worth it?). Older fans and non-Process types that rejoined the bandwagon this season after four years of tanking were anti-Hinkie to the point where they wouldn’t even acknowledge that he had put the team in a good position to move forward. And pro-Hinkie types probably went a little too far in the opposite direction with effusive praise for a guy who was good at tearing it down, but might not have been the one to build it back up.
Hinkie supporters will say that their guy never had the chance to finish the job in the first place, and it’s a fair argument, but it’s also fail-safe. The fact of the matter is that no one knows if he would have successfully completed the task. No one knows if he would have drafted Markelle Fultz or instead identified Jayson Tatum as NBA-ready in the same way that Danny Ainge did. No one knows if he would have done one-year overpays for Amir Johnson and JJ Redick.
As far as X’s and O’s, Hinkie and Brown always seemed to be on the same page. Brown tried to space and pace and encourage analytics-backed three point shooting and floor stretching even when he didn’t have the roster to do it. They tried to carve out a style and stick with it, which has blossomed into what you now see at the Wells Fargo Center. Hinkie certainly understands what Brown is trying to do tactically, which would make a second-term partnership very fluid from the get-go. There wouldn’t be any butting of heads in that department. Morey believes in a lot of the same principles as Hinkie and Brown, but constructed a slower and more deliberate team that chucked 42.3 three pointers per game and deferred to MVP James Harden for 20.1 shots per game. The Sixers were a much more balanced team that liked to get out and run and spread the scoring around. Maybe Joel Embiid takes on more of that burden next year with more post touches. You never know.
But I think the point is that Morey would work very well with Brown. He did, after all, construct the biggest threat to the Warriors and probably would have knocked off Golden State if Chris Paul didn’t go down with a hamstring injury before game seven of the western conference finals. 65 wins and finding a way to get Paul and Harden to work together flawlessly in that back court wins you NBA Executive of the Year.
One of the criticisms that popped up towards the end of Hinkie’s tenure was this idea that he wasn’t a great communicator and that he didn’t have great relationships with agents. There might have been some truth to that, but like I said with the Colangelo thing, it doesn’t really matter who the GM is if you have cap room and a solid young core. I really don’t think any superstar free agent is out there saying, “Well, I’d love to play with Embiid and Ben Simmons for $25 million, but I just don’t like Sam Hinkie.”
Brett Brown said as much when I asked him about that last month:
We’ll never know if Sam Hinkie would have finished the job here, but that’s part of the mystique and the lore, isn’t it? Hinkie is kind of like the first Matrix movie: a classic that we should have left alone. We didn’t need the Matrix sequel, or the third one, because it just got kind of goofy and complicated to the point where Keanu Reeves was battling 4,000 Agent Smiths at the same time. It feels like Sam Hinkie: Reloaded is the movie we don’t need.
Bringing him back kills that mysterious “what if” vibe and feels ultimately redundant to me. It just feels like we’re past the point of re-hiring Sam Hinkie, and if you do, you risk putting another big fracture in the divide that separates pro-Process and anti-Process people. It feels like it would be a huge distraction and sidebar, something that results in a bunch of pointless arguing about the strategy from 2013 to 2016 when we’re sitting here in 2018 trying to get to the conference finals. The Sixers’ fan base is a much more cohesive unit than it once was, so you’re jeopardizing that armistice with an optically challenging hire in Sam Hinkie, part two.
What you could do, if Morey is out of the question and Hinkie doesn’t make sense, is take a look at Morey’s #2, Gersson Rosas, who popped up on a lot of candidate lists last month.
Rosas flirted with the Hornets gig that went to Mitch Kupchak and removed himself from consideration for the Pistons gig. He has some GM experience running the Rockets’ G-League squad and had a short stint in Dallas that fell apart due to disputes over his role with the team. His name always gets thrown around when an opening pops up.
That seems like the logical next step here. I wasn’t pro-Hinkie or anti-Hinkie before I started writing about the Sixers, but from a Hinkie-neutral standpoint, it just feels like that window closed forever when the manifesto was written.