This isn’t the first time I wrote a piece like this, and it probably won’t be the last.
Believers of “The Process” will never stop thanking former Sixers president and general manager Sam Hinkie for his vision, which resulted in the current Sixers team, a young, fun and relevant squad, that’s easily the most promising the NBA.
However, while you worship your folk hero, devote equal time to the head coach he hired, who’s still here and just as instrumental, if not more in the product you’re cheering for in these NBA Playoffs.
Brett Brown deserves a lot of credit.
I’ll admit, Hinkie’s plan worked. His vision to build with lottery picks resulted in budding stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, as well as the extremely reliable Dario Saric. Hinkie discovered defensive role player Robert Covington, backup point guard T.J. McConnell and energy player Richaun Holmes.
One of Hinkie’s picks was flipped for promising talent Markelle Fultz and it appears the Lakers first round selection will finally convey this June, barring it falling unexpectedly high in the lottery.
Analytics or not, turns out Hinkie could recognize skill pretty well and now teams across sports are trying to form their own “process” because of him.
So, if you “Trusted the Process” since day one, before you criticize this column, understand I went from thinking Hinkie was a fraud, to realizing he knew what he was doing, even if the rebuild was a couple of years too long. In fairness, Embiid’s injuries played a big part in that.
Hinkie and Brown were with the Sixers when “The Process” began, with Hinkie’s arrival coming three months before Brown in 2013.
Whether or not Hinkie was actually pushed out by Sixers management or the NBA in 2016, he officially resigned. And, instead of trashing his former “investors” or the league, which would’ve been a foolish move, he wrote a long, 13-page letter that proved he was too smart for his own good.
Hinkie’s vision was smart. His mannerisms and method of going about that plan led to his demise in the NBA, until another team hires him, if that ever happens.
Meantime, Brown risked his coaching reputation by sticking out a 75-253 record over four seasons. As the dark days were happening, Brown developed players Hinkie acquired and often spoke on behalf of the team more than a head coach should, while his immediate boss was no where to be found.
Finally, when light appeared at the end of the tunnel and Hinke was gone, Brown made the right decision to put Simmons at point guard and integrated free agent veterans along with his young core to create the product you watch on an almost nightly basis.
So, as the Sixers continue in this postseason, with likely many more to come in the future, make sure you give Brown as much credit as Hinkie, if not more.
You Should Know Better, Claude
Peter Laviolette once referred to Flyers Claude Giroux as “the best player in the world.”
It’s safe to say “G” isn’t living up to that.
Despite a very impressive 102 point season worthy of MVP considerations, the Flyers captain hasn’t performed well in the playoffs, including this season, which Giroux was a dismal minus-10 with only one goal in six games against the Penguins.
Giroux has only three goals in his last 19 postseason games dating back to 2014.
However, that didn’t stop the 10-year Flyer and longest tenured athlete in Philadelphia from suggesting fan boos sometimes affect the way they play at home, a building the Orange and Black were a mediocre 22-13-6 in this past season, not including 0-3 against the Penguins in the playoffs, getting outscored 18-6.
Per Marcus Hayes of Philly.com, when asked if the team was trying too hard to please the tough crowd, Giroux responded:
“Yeah. I think. … I do think so. I think when it’s not going very well, fans, they can get a little … start booing us and stuff. That’s when we try to do too much. On the road, we don’t really get that. We have our game plan at the start of the game, and we carry on for 60 minutes.
“I think sometimes — I’m not saying every game — but some games, at home, it wasn’t going our way. And sometimes it can happen like that. You can have a bad start. You can be down, 1- or 2-0. You [ideally would] keep going the same way you planned on playing the game. That wasn’t the case. We kind of changed our game. We tried to do a little too much. Trying to do somebody else’s job instead of going out there and playing the game.”
That’s not what you should be saying to fans that paid a lot of money to watch two-and-a-half non competitive hockey games against your arch rivals.
Before I Forget…
• Eagles quarterback Nick Foles reiterated to the media this week that he aspires to be a starting quarterback in the NFL again, but isn’t forcing the Birds hand to make a trade. Foles really likes the organization and Philadelphia. He thinks very highly of Carson Wentz and vis versa. The Eagles couldn’t be in a better situation. There are two starting quarterbacks on their roster and the one won’t play, assuming everything goes to plan with Wentz, isn’t going to cause a hissy fit. It was obvious back in 2013, but not enough people realized, that Foles is a special dude.
• Don’t look now, but Gabe Kapler’s Phillies are competing for the top spot in the National League East following a dismal 1-4 start to the season. It’s very possible all the negative towards Kapler was premature, albeit completely understandable at the time. Don’t be mistaken, the Phils will go into another lull again and Kapler will make mistakes. But, it appears he’s succeeding tremendously at the most important thing in baseball, a happy clubhouse. Although it didn’t sound like that in the first week or two of the season, no one is complaining about Kap’s boldness and lineup puzzle piecing anymore. Charlie Manuel wasn’t a wizard with managerial decisions, but the World Champion managed that clubhouse brilliantly. If Kapler can continue to the same with this group, there will be a lot of fun baseball in South Philadelphia for years to come.
• Claude Giroux isn’t the only Flyer taking heat following their lopsided playoff defeat to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Head coach Dave Hakstol isn’t a popular guy these days in the Philadelphia sports landscape. Hakstol’s public lack of emotion isn’t a trait people are fond of. And there’s no question there were many games this season in which the Flyers came out flat. Does one have to do with the other? You could argue the case. Whether that’s true, who knows? Either way, this Flyers team needs spunk. I understand hockey is less of a bruiser sport today and more about speed, but they’ll never beat Pittsburgh with their current personality. They need an edge. They need some “jam.” Oh wait, wasn’t Peter Laviolette the last Flyers coach to win a series? Didn’t he coach the best team in hockey this season?
• Speaking of physical play, the Miami Heat took that to excessive lengths against the 76ers in the first round of the playoffs. You could argue their physicality was flat out dirty in many instances, because on paper the Heat weren’t that good. In hindsight though, it was a great first test for the young, up and coming Sixers. It gave them a decent taste of postseason basketball. It showed them what it’s like to take a punch, figuratively and almost literally, and the importance of not letting that style consume your focus. Good luck to the next 76ers opponent. Facing the physical Heat made them a better team.
• How cool is Joel Embiid’s mask? Not sure how long “The Phantom of The Process” needs to play that role, but it only makes the big guy look more intimidating.