If last year was any indication, the month prior to the NBA Draft is the time of the year when Sixers General Manager Sam Hinkie gets very quiet publicly.
So when Hinkie appeared on 97.3 ESPN and WIP the other day, it was noteworthy, both because of the huge importance the next month will have in shaping this Sixers teams future, but also because we're unlikely to get much more out of him publicly until after the draft.
As crazed fans like us who have been listening to Sam Hinkie for the past year, we know not to expect too much out of him in these interviews. He's simply not going to say anything that would tip his hand, as he holds that secrecy as a competitive advantage. Still, you can at times infer a little bit about his thought process, preparation, and general views on data collection and information gathering.
The WIP interview, in particular, was about the most open, engaging, and jovial we've seen Hinkie publicly, and is well worth 15 minutes of your time.
There are also interviews with Matt Moore of CBS Sports, Kevin Pelton from ESPN, and Tom Moore. Those are linked to at the bottom of this post, and all worth a listen to as well.
A few highlighted quotes from Sam Hinkie:
On getting through last season
"We focused a lot on the style in which we were playing. We focused on the way in which we were focused on player development...So we won by 10 or we lost by 10. You still screwed up 5 pick and rolls. You still got hung on two pin-down screens. You still didn't call the right play in this situation. We tried to address those every day, and those become your measuring sticks and less about what the world has to say about how your team performed last night."
On fan support:
"I think the fans have been really understanding so far. I don't know exactly how that will go, I know this: the last time we were great was '83...The fanbase has been waiting a very long time, and has been anxious for a winner that whole time. And I think they're anxious for one now. I think we need to keep showing that we're focused on something that's lacking, and we need to not take shortcuts. I think if we got off of our plan and went and did things that were short term in nature, I think then is when they'd start losing patience."
On the backlash towards tanking:
"I don't know [why we get caught up in semantics about tanking]. I manage our team for a living, I don't spend a lot of time in the media, which sometimes I catch trouble for. I think it became a sensational story this year, and I understand why, [but] I think at the same time we're trying to say 'Hey, here's the situation that we came into, and how do we build something real? And how do we build something that can play into May and June', and that's the focus."
On whether he's had trade discussions yet
"Just sayin', maybe. Somewhere [We've had discussions]."
"I'm not one to wait around, if that's what you mean. I'm not saying we'll do anything, but I had a few discussions prior to the lottery. I couldn't get anybody to move prior to the lottery. [laughs]"
On scouting the entire draft:
"I think for a long time a lot of teams would say 'Hey, we're picking at 15, so we'll look at the players from 12 to 17, and just study that pool really hard, and decide amongst them'. Well that's great, until somebody comes along with an offer to move 15 for something else. Then you have to be ready. For the last many years now, we've been very focused on 1-60. You spend a disproportionate amount of time on the ones you have a chance at, to be clear. But you have to know. People didn't think at this time last year that we'd be picking Nerlens Noel, and that we'd be picking at 6. So you might have rationally said 'Hey, why bother Nerlens, he may go 1, he may go 2, who knows, but you're picking 11, so who cares'. Which is sort of reasonable, unless a trade proposal comes up that's of interest. And then in that case you better know what it is you want to know to make the selection. So we're pretty focused on 1-60 at this stage."
"We're often as aggressive as any team about the number of players we work out and speak with. We've done a number of interviews already, we must have done about 15 in Chicago, we've done another 15 or so here in LA, even with second round guys. A lot of people [sometimes say] 'Why would you talk to that many people'. They don't remember what I remember, which is what Elliot Williams was like coming out of Memphis when he was a 1st round pick a couple of years ago, or what Hollis Thompson was like when he was coming out, or what Henry Sims was like. All that stuff matters. I'll never forget I asked Casper Ware for 30 minutes about his willingness to play overseas, and what kind of NBA player he thought he would be. And you don't know when those opportunities will come back around. And you don't know that as the players get better that you might want them on your roster, and having a chance to meet them, even once, even if it's several years ago, is pretty helpful."
On Nerlens Noel's progress:
"Nerlens is feeling good, everything is checking out fine...He's been playing a fair bit pickup lately, he was practicing with the team for the last couple of weeks of the season without any restrictions...I suspect he'll make a debut this summer in summer league."
On scouting the international guys:
"These kinds of things happen over many years. Often, the players you've had on your radar for a long time. Sort of famously, Dante was a 15 year old in an Australian national team camp where Brett was the coach. That's a long time ago. Dario Saric has been beating people up internationally in the under 17's and under 18's and the like for many years now. Often these players you've seen in different roles and different places, and you're obviously weighing the most recent information more heavily, but there's been a long time of watching them for the last several years."
(Note: jump to ~6:30 mark in the WIP interview to hear him discuss some of the European gyms and playing atmosphere).
On the benefits of having 7 picks in the draft:
"I think we have lots of opportunities. I think status quo [7 picks], we're just fine with, which is pick all the picks. There's 7 picks. They might end up all on our roster, they might not. We have 2 players now in Arsalan Kazemi and Furkan Aldemir who are part of our larger set of players, but aren't on our 15 man roster right now, and are getting better day by day as they work on their games around the world. We'll have those opportunities. But yes, we can sort of maybe think a little differently. I think if you only have one pick and it's one second rounder, I think maybe there's a different set of pressure. We're looking to be aggressive and we're looking to find ways where we can add players to our team. "
On the faith the fans have in him:
"Sometimes I think people have too much [faith in me]. [ed. note: LOL] We sort of have to be reasonable that a lot of what we do is try to work hard, try to find an edge, and often the edges are pretty small. Every player we pick won't be great, every player for sure won't be rookie of the year like Michael [Carter-Williams] was this year. We're trying to tip the odds in our favor. And one of the tricks is to try to put yourself in position to make lots of good decisions. I feel like we're in a position to do that now."
On players willingness to play in Philadelphia:
"I think, at the end of the day, what we've seen so far we'll continue to see, which is today's young players, college players, the ones we've been talking to most recently, they find Philadelphia really attractive. Because they know about the tradition of the Sixers, and they know about the tradition of great players that have played [here], and they know it's a big market, and they know that they'll get a chance to get better. They'll get a chance to play, and they'll be coached by Brett, and there's a lot of open space in front of them, and they want to be a part of bringing something back. "