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September 30, 2015

Sam Hinkie says training camp is 'night and day' from two years ago

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093015_Hinkie_AP Rich Hofmann/Philly Voice

Sam Hinkie speaks!

Usually when Sam Hinkie talks to the media, something of great importance (draft, trade, injury, etc.) has usually just occurred. Often when Hinkie speaks, he has recently sent either Philly or entire NBA into a frenzied state, many times both.

So when the Sixers general manager and president of basketball operations fielded questions on Wednesday afternoon at Stockton University with little going on around him, it was kind of a different vibe. For example, nobody asked when he was going to “land the plane,” not in those terms anyway. Here are four highlights of what Hinkie had to say: 

1. Brett Brown’s contract

Hinkie apparently reads the papers, and Brett Brown’s contract status was the major storyline last week. And while he won’t go as far as saying that Brown will receive a contract extension, Hinkie had nothing but positive words for the coach he hired a couple of years ago. Keep in mind that he has always offered nothing but praise for Brown.

“I saw that was the topic du jour the other day,” Hinkie said. “I’m proud to see that all of you like Brett Brown as much as I like Brett Brown. It’s been a real pleasure, and I suspect it will continue to be a real pleasure to work with him.”

Hinkie said that his respect for Brown grows week-by-week, and there is no reason to assume that he’s lying. But would he respect Brown even more with an extension?

“I think those are conversations for a later date, but I’ll say this: He’s done wonderfully, and even in ways behind the scenes that people can’t see like when he’s on the sidelines and trying to rile our guys up to guard for one more possession or five more seconds, he’s been even better.”

2. Night and day?

I have written a lot about the board game “Chutes and Ladders” and how it can be analogous to this full-scale rebuilding plan. From a record standpoint, these Sixers figure to be pretty close to the 2013-14 edition. That doesn’t matter if they eventually make the big jump to NBA contenders, but they clearly aren’t there yet. So how is the organization tangibly different?

“It’s probably hard for people to see and that’s OK, it feels night and day compared to 24 months ago when we were at St. Joe’s,” Hinkie said.  “Everything about the kinds of things we can control behind the scenes feels different.”

Hinkie mentioned the new staff hires (Dr. David Martin and Todd Wright) and how “the machine behind the scenes runs in a way it didn’t before.” He also talked about a recent conversation he had with Hollis Thompson, who is one of the three holdovers (Nerlens Noel, Tony Wroten) from the original Hinkie-Brown team two years ago.

“He would just smile and talk about how different it is now and the rhythm and the way we go about our days and how different they are,” Hinkie said.

The Sixers shouldn’t be too much different than the 2013-14 team on the court this season (although more of the core is likely in place), so they are working on improving the margins. We’ll see if that pays off in the long run.

3. Embiid update

Joel Embiid was back in Philly today after attending yesterday’s practice. The injured center still has a cast on his right leg and can’t do much rehab at all because of it.

“The things he can do, which are limited — nutrition, medication, sleep, staying off it, and all of that — that’s been really good,” Hinkie said.

Once the cast comes off, which Hinkie said should happen in a couple of weeks, Embiid can start to do range of motion exercises.

4. 'I would have seen my kids more'

Hinkie also talked about one of his healthy centers, Jahlil Okafor. We all know how frequently the Sixers’ GM travels around the globe scouting players, but I like when he specifically talks about where he was after the fact.

“All of the talent in college basketball seems to be coalescing in just a few spots,” Hinkie said. “A couple of years ago, I spent a lot of time in Lawrence, Kansas. Last year, I spent a lot of time in Durham, North Carolina. If you would’ve told me back in December that we would get Jah, I would have seen my kids a little more in the spring. I would have just packed it up and said, ‘I’ll see you in June.’”

After spending so much time at Duke, Hinkie obviously already knew a ton about Okafor. As for what has surprised him since the draft?

“The thing that does, for such a high pick and for someone who has been the best player of his cohorts since he was 12 or 13, he’s really team oriented,” Hinkie said. “Like he’s really into his teammates, he’s really into what the group is doing. He’s not on any island, he’s not doing his own thing.”

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