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NBA Beat: Former 76ers GM Sam Hinkie defends his plan

FILE - In this Dec. 7, 2015, file photo, Philadelphia 76ers general manger Sam Hinkie, left, takes question from the media as 76ers chairman of basketball operations Jerry Colangelo, right, and team owner Josh Harris look on during a press conference in Philadelphia. Hinkie resigned Wednesday night, April 6, 2016.
FILE - In this Dec. 7, 2015, file photo, Philadelphia 76ers general manger Sam Hinkie, left, takes question from the media as 76ers chairman of basketball operations Jerry Colangelo, right, and team owner Josh Harris look on during a press conference in Philadelphia. Hinkie resigned Wednesday night, April 6, 2016. AP

Trust the process.

Those are great words to live by and a reminder of the value of patience.

But around the NBA in recent years, it’s been the mocking refrain from NBA types who have laughed at the Philadelphia 76ers and their “process” of improving under general manager Sam Hinkie, who resigned last week.

Hinkie left a legacy of losses and a future built on hope – hope that the process that led to the most losses in the NBA during his three-year tenure someday will pay off.

But Hinkie’s resignation wasn’t a surprise. The 76ers brought in Jerry Colangelo as chairman in December, and Colangelo’s son, Bryan, is a former general manager looking to get back into the business.

Philadelphia is not the first team to put its faith in the draft, wishing for lottery luck that brings a franchise-changing player. Hinkie made deals to acquire first-round picks or the right to move up in the draft (see his deal with the Kings last year). But perhaps no team has been so consistently brazen in sticking with a losing plan that banks on the draft.

Your club is on solid footing now, with much hard work yet to be done.

Former Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie, in his resignation letter

“In the upcoming May draft lottery, we have what will likely be the best ever odds to get the #1 overall pick (nearly 30%), a roughly 50/50 chance at a top-2 pick (the highest ever), and a roughly 50/50 chance at two top-5 picks, which would be the best lottery night haul ever,” Hinkie said in his resignation letter. “That same bounce of a ping pong ball (almost a flip of a coin) will determine if we have three first round picks this year (unusual) or four (unprecedented). That’s this year. Or this quarter, if you will.”

That’s all nice, but that also requires making the right pick. The 76ers had two lottery picks in 2013, acquiring one from the New Orleans Pelicans that they used to draft injured center Nerlens Noel. They used the other choice on guard Michael Carter-Williams, who won the Rookie of the Year award but was traded the following season. Noel has shown signs of being a solid player but hardly a franchise-changing figure.

In 2014, Philadelphia again ended up with two lottery picks. The 76ers selected another injured center, Joel Embiid, who has yet to play in the league, and forward Dario Saric, who is still playing overseas.

“You can be wrong for the right reasons,” Hinkie wrote. “This may well prove to be Joel Embiid.”

The 76ers’ troubles have made well-respected coach Brett Brown a sympathetic figure. Diehard fans talk about how many games the team could have won, refusing to accept the process is about losing.

Hinkie told ownership he was leaving the team in a better place.

“Your club is on solid footing now, with much hard work yet to be done,” he wrote. “As we continued to invest in young players, acquire more draft selections, and maintain cap flexibility the forward-looking markets took notice. Our Future Franchise Rankings (ESPN’s) that began at 24th in a 30-team league in May of 2013 climbed to 19th in 2014, 17th in 2015, and most recently via RealGM’s rankings in December of 2015, 12th. I think that is imminently reasonable, as is a couple of spots higher.”

So what becomes of Hinkie? What if in two years the 76ers are in the playoffs because of the process?

“I will be repotted professionally,” Hinkie wrote. “That is often uncomfortable; most growth is. But it’s also often healthier over the longer sweep of history, too.”     

Trending up

A few weeks ago, the Dallas Mavericks appeared to be headed out of the playoff picture.

Remember when Kings guard Rajon Rondo said he wanted the Mavericks to buy their “plane ticket” for the offseason the same day as the Kings at the end of the regular season? That was March 27, and the Kings had just throttled the Mavericks 133-111, the 10th loss in 12 games for Dallas.

The Mavericks haven’t lost since, winning six games to improve to 41-38 and close in on a playoff berth.

Right now, Dallas’ plane ticket will take the team to San Antonio next weekend for the first round of the playoffs.   

Trending down

The Houston Rockets’ decline continues.

A year after James Harden led the Rockets to the Western Conference finals, they are on the verge of finishing with a losing record and might miss the playoffs.

Even though coach Kevin McHale was fired early in the season, problems persist, as illustrated by last week’s home loss to a Phoenix Suns team with nothing to play for.

Change is bound to sweep through Clutch City in the offseason.

Last words

“I want y’all to go to Toys ‘R’ Us and put up each block for how many blocks I’ve got for the season and just look at it and just be like, ‘That’s a lot of blocks.’ And then y’all vote.”

6 Consecutive wins by the Dallas Mavericks since a March 27 loss to the Kings

Miami Heat center and league blocks leader Hassan Whiteside to reporters on how voters should approach the Defensive Player of the Year award.

Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings.

 

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