News broke yesterday that Sam Hinkie had stepped down from his roles as president of basketball operations and general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers. He was replaced, immediately, by Jerry Colangelo's son, Bryan. It was a stunning turn of events for the 76ers, who have long been mired in an endless rebuilding process.
But really, can you blame either side? Sam always had the long view, was always holding out hope for a transcendent player. A superstar that he could insert alongside his young core of Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, Dario Saric and Joel Embiid. The Sixers own the worst record in the league (again), having posted a crazy looking 10-68 so far this season. They'll have the highest shot of winning the lottery, and therefore will have a shot to draft Brandon Ingram or Ben Simmons. After years and years of purposeful suckage, things seem to finally be turning a corner.
But, whatever corner they turn, it will be without The Process' architect at the helm.
Imagine: The Sixers win the lottery, take Simmons to act as primary distributor. Saric finally comes over from Europe. Embiid gets healthy. Imagine this team -- which honestly could be extremely exciting -- and now picture Sam Hinkie sitting at the end of some dive bar, sipping on a quickly-warming Blue Moon (with an orange slice, of course). That, my friends, is a sad, sad thought. (Also, I don't know why, but I am 100% certain Hinkie drinks Blue Moon with orange slices. Mark it down = fact.)
As a Warriors fan, I look at the Dubs' roster and shake my head. I mean, for a team that was only actively tanking for one year, the Warriors have been insanely good/lucky/crazyluckygood at drafting. The one year they did tank for a specific pick (eighth pick in the 2012 draft), they ended up with Harrison Barnes. However, in that same draft, they also ended up with Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green. So, go figure. You can't successfully rebuild solely though the draft without stumbling upon a gem like Draymond in the second round. Sure, the Warriors were aggressive in pursuing trades and free agents (see: Andrew Bogut, Shaun Livingston, and most importantly Andre Iguodala), but their drafting has been so impeccable that it still leaves me shaking my head. Every damn day. Just, a constant head shake. Klay Thompson at 11 (2011), Stephen Curry at seven (2009), and of course, the pick that transformed the franchise: Ognjen Kuzmic at 52 (2012). LOVE YOU KUZ!!!
It's just bat-guano level crazy that the Warriors not only drafted all those guys, but then put them each in a position to succeed. Either by trading the right player at the right time (Monta Ellis so that Curry could spread his wings), or by sheer luck (David Lee's injury that paved the way for Draymond's ascension). And here we are, on the precipice of another deep playoff run. On the precipice of seventy-something wins. On the precipice of sustained dominance.
So, I can't help but look over at Philadelphia and wonder a.) what could have been, and b.) what will come to pass? If they end up with Simmons, and if they drag themselves back into the land of the living -- back into the land of competitive basketball -- how then will we remember the Henkie era? Will we still not trust The Process? Or will we sing The Process' praises?
Rebuilding is hard. There's no tried and true way. A million different things had to fall into place before the Warriors became THE WARRIORS! I'm very curious to see what happens now in the city of brotherly love. Very curious to see which team eventually gives Hinkie another shot. Because I feel like we were cheated out of seeing his final vision, his final masterwork.
Perhaps the most interesting comparison between the Warriors' strategy (read: Joe Lacob's strategy) and Hinkie's model is that they are basically the exact reverse of one another. Lacob was incredibly impatient, pushing Monta out, aiming high. He pushed and pushed, demanding excellence. A couple of things fell his way, and suddenly the Warriors are world-slayers. Draymond Green in the second round fell his way. Steph Curry morphing into a video game hero fell his way.
Inversely, Hinkie preached patience. All he had was time. He would, as he put it, "zig while our competitors comfortably zag." He would take the longest view in the room. Time was of no consequence. His patience knew no ends. But then Joel Embiid being forever-injured happened. Nerlens Noel's lost rookie season happened. Jahlil Okafor's Boston brawlings happened. Fortune did not smile on Hinkie's patient fields, and now he has no job.
It's easy to be anti-Hinkie. It's easy to speak about his process in a derogatory manner. I mean, the team under his directorship went a whopping 47-195. Wow, that is just... Yikes. But, remember, Lacob got booed. Five years ago, people had no faith in the Warriors, either. Anyone who says they saw this present-day juggernaut coming is either a liar or a time traveler. Like I said, rebuilding is hard. No matter what your method -- no matter how you approach each day -- a million things have to bounce your way. The Sixers and the Warriors are, at their cores, mirror images of each other. Well, you know, inverse mirror images. Or maybe, like, one of those funky clown-house mirrors or something. Basically the Warriors are awesome and the Sixers are horrible. You know what I'm saying. Luck fortunes the brave, or something like that...
Someone will give Sam Hinkie another chance. Maybe, just maybe, it'll work out for him next time.