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February 24, 2015

The Sixers’ rebuild: Science or science fiction?

Opinion Al Morganti
022415_hinkie_AP Matt Slocum/AP

There's a method to Sam Hinkie's madness ... but that doesn't mean it's going to work.

The Philadelphia 76ers recently unveiled their new mascot, a lovable big blue dog named Franklin, who is already in the doghouse because of some Twitter rants before he was reborn as a canine.

The dog is going to be great, but at this point, the best mascot for the 76ers would be a cat. Not any cat, mind you, but a very special cat that – like the Sixers -- is either alive or dead, depending on your point of view.

Yes, the Sixers should go to the Franklin Institue (which, by the way was not named after the dog, but the dude with reading glasses) and find a way to get themselves a huge version of Schrodinger’s Cat.

Well, at least the live version.

After listening to Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie last week as he tried to explain the future of the franchise, I could only think about a science teacher from school who was trying to explain physics. Like the science teacher, Hinkie was using huge words -- and words nobody could truly understand -- such as trope and optionality.

It was like trying to get a handle on organic chemistry or, even worse – quantum physics.

And then it struck me: The only way any of us had any interest in the subject was when we were told that this Edwin Schrodenger guy had figured out a way that this cat in a box was both dead and alive. It all depended on your point of view – just like the Hinkie plan.

For a brief synopsis of the cat stuff you can check this out

Anyway, whether or not you believe the Sixers are alive or dead depends on whether or not you believe in standardized thinking, or what you might call your Newtonian laws of physics, or if you think there can be a new equation that leaders to a better answer.

What Hinkie is selling here is very literally a quantum leap of faith. A quantum changes from bad to good. Unlike a normal transition, in which something might take a couple of steps to get from square one to square five, this is supposed to suddenly turn into another form  -- just don’t look for a while.

Under Hinkie, the Sixers are trying to avoid the dead cat bounce, a plan that appears to be working, but it really just an illusion that things are getting better. At least under this plan there is a chance that at some point you will look in the box and see a very good basketball team.

Of course, you could also look into the box and see a dead team.

The opinion here has always been that Hinkie’s plan is better than the constant whir of going nowhere, and at least there is a chance that when the experiment is done, Philadelphia will have a solid franchise for a long while.

On the other side of the argument is the fact that one sure way to have the plan turn into a bomb of nuclear proportions is to use a quantum equation.  In the meantime the next time Hinkie shows up for a media session, he should arrive wearing thick glasses, a lab coat engraved with the name Edwin Schrodinger, and a very live cat.

It would be less confusing than a treatise on trope and optionality.


So, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. announced that he met with first baseman Ryan Howard and basically apologized for public statements he made indicating that Howard would be better off with another team.

Too late.

The Phillies front office has totally butchered the entire transition period of this franchise by being so publically negative about the players and the immediate future. Nobody is going to feel too bad for people such as Howard, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels who make millions of dollars if they are called out by management.

However, a locker room is a dangerous place to introduce even a hint of negativity. It is one thing if the coach or manager can inspire players to circle the wagons against an owner or management that does not believe in them as Buddy Ryan did with the Eagles roughly a quarter century ago, but that won’t happen here.

In the first place, baseball players have a lot more “feelings” than football players. And secondly, does anybody think of Sandberg as a guy who could get those wagons circled?

Doubt it.


By the way, didn’t it sound like Cole Hamels was giving a slightly modified and modernized version of Curt Schilling’s plea to management to get him out of here and move on to a place that cared about winning?


The beat goes on as to whether or not Marcus Mariota can possibly wind up with the Eagles, and the recent quarterback outings at the NFL combine only fueled the speculation.

The Oregon quarterback was better than some expected in the drills, but mostly it was par for the course as he put up great numbers in terms of speed. He also drew out some criticism from Arizona Cardinals and former Temple coach Bruce Arians, who went out of this way to question the viability of read and react players such as Mariota.

In simple terms, Arians, who has had great success with quarterbacks, questioned whether a guy who is schooled with Oregon’s cue card offense, could think on his feet to change plays at the line of scrimmage.

It is a legitimate fear, but it should also lead to some buoyed hopes that Mariota could drop and give the Eagles a shot – that fears that Mariota will suffer problems like RG III will make people think twice.

What it also tells you is that Chip Kelly has already ventured into some pretty high ground in terms of competition. It’s pretty clear that some NFL coaches aren’t taken with the way Kelly has been portrayed as the new genius on the block, and would like nothing more than to see this whole Eagles up-tempo thing collapse around him.

At any rate, the Eagles and Kelly will be THE show from now until draft day.


And it says here that the only basketball team that can beat Kentucky this year is a Catholic School. Sorry Villanova, the real threat will be Gonzaga.