76ers rebuilding without Hinkie

  • Friday, April 8, 2016 1:01am
  • Sports

PHILADELPHIA — Sam Hinkie quit on The Process.

The Philadelphia 76ers threw a pizza party.

No, the two events were not related, though it was a bit peculiar to find the team’s practice facility festooned with balloons as select season-ticket holders gorged on food a day after perhaps the most bizarre departure in 76ers history.

With Franklin, the blue dog mascot, waving from a window, the Sixers wound down practice with Drake’s “Energy” blaring through the court.

“I got enemies, got a lotta enemies / Got a lotta people tryna drain me of my energy.”

Might as well have been Hinkie’s theme song.

The Sixers are moving ahead in their painful rebuild without the general manager who methodically turned the organization into one of the worst in professional sports.

The new era comes a day after Hinkie informed the team via a 13-page manifesto littered with references to Abraham Lincoln and flightless birds that he was out.

Coach Brett Brown was again left holding the bag as Hinkie scrammed out of town.

“He obviously felt like this was not something he wanted to be a part of,” Brown said Thursday. “He didn’t want to be a part of the collaborative effort.”

Brown decided to stick out this elongated rebuild and was rewarded — rewarded? — earlier this season with a contract extension. Hinkie was hired by owner Josh Harris in 2013 to find a creative way to turn the Sixers into winners. Hinkie’s plan — gut the roster of any solid NBA talent, shred payroll and stockpile draft picks to build for the future — had the initial backing of ownership.

The 76ers went 19-63 on his watch in his first season and 18-64 last season.

Year 3 has been even worse even by those miserable standards.

The Sixers started 1-30 and Harris had been embarrassed enough. Hinkie’s power was weakened in December when the Sixers hired Jerry Colangelo to oversee basketball operations. Hinkie ran an analytics-minded front office and when the Sixers wanted to add more basketball people, he balked.

Hinkie was pushed and became more defiant, insisting he didn’t help and that his sour relationship with agents would improve once he started throwing cash at free agents — which the Sixers are finally poised to do this summer.

Hinkie did not share in Philadelphia’s vision of having him adjust or add to the power structure, so he quit.

Following Hinkie’s departure, the 76ers looked to the family tree for a replacement — Bryan Colangelo had long been mentioned as having a future role in the organization after stints in Phoenix and Toronto.

The Sixers are set to hire the former NBA executive of the year as their general manager, according to a person with knowledge of the decision. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because Colangelo’s hiring was not official.

Brown said after practice Thursday he learned Hinkie quit through the team’s media relations department.

Hinkie lasted less than three full seasons and left the Sixers with the worst record in the league at 10-68.

The Process, Part II is underway.

“It doesn’t mean things have been blown up,” Brown said. “We’re committed to the path that we said we were going to be on three years ago. No matter who was going to be in charge of the draft this season, next season, we’re jumping into the free-agent market.”

Harris and co-owner David Blitzer attended practice and did not speak to the media. Hinkie was also at the practice facility and met with some of the players. He did not talk to the media.

Hinkie made his statement in a farewell letter, obtained by ESPN, that blindsided management and caught Brown off guard.

“There has been much criticism of our approach,” he wrote. “There will be more. A competitive league like the NBA necessitates a zig while our competitors comfortably zag. We often chose not to defend ourselves against much of the criticism, largely in an effort to stay true to the ideal of having the longest view in the room.”

Hinkie doesn’t exactly leave behind a barren cupboard — Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor and overseas prospect Dario Saric still have potential on the court or as trade bait, the Sixers have about $60 million in salary cap space, and they could have up to four first-round picks in the 2016 draft.

Even without Hinkie in place, Brown’s job is safe.

“I know he’s taking his hits all over the place,” Brown said. “But he hired me. I was his partner.”

Like any partnership, they squabbled.

The 2014 draft could define the organization for a generation.

With two top-10 picks, the Sixers selected Embiid and Saric. Embiid was picked at No. 3 and has yet to play because of foot injuries and there’s no guarantee he’ll become even a serviceable NBA player. Saric has been stuffed overseas and could play there for at least one more season.

Hinkie shaped a roster this season that failed to include a solid point guard or any veterans to help guide the young players. Okafor, the No. 3 pick of the 2015 draft, had his season marred by a series of off-court incidents and he served a two-game suspension for his role in a Boston street fight. Management refused to address Okafor’s behavior or punishment, leaving Brown as the lone spokesman.

Through the draft, the Colangelos, or free agents, Brown said the worst is behind the Sixers.

“I feel like patience as we’ve known it isn’t going to have to be required as much anymore,” he said.

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