By Harry Allison
When a team’s general manager speaks to the press during the first few days of training camp, he usually tries to avoid making news.
And that was the case yesterday with Sixers GM Sam Hinkie, except when the subject was center in waiting Joel Embiid:
Hinkie said Embiid, who recently underwent surgery to repair a broken foot, will still be in a cast for a few more weeks.
Embiid is expected to miss the entire season with the injury, which also caused him to miss all of last season. The 76ers selected the 7-foot Embiid with the third pick in the 2014 draft.
“He can’t do range of motion (exercises). He can’t do very much,” Hinkie said. “The things he can do — nutrition, medication, sleep, staying off of it — has been really good.”
“It feels night and day compared to 24 months ago when we were at St. Joe’s (in Philly for training camp),” Hinkie said after the 76ers practiced at Stockton on Wednesday morning. “Everything about the kinds of things we can control feels different. I feel like our machine behind the scenes runs in a way that it just didn’t before.”
The 76ers have made no secret of their plan to sacrifice the present in order to acquire talent that can make them a perennial contender in the future.
Hinkie supporters are fond of saying “trust the process.” But others think that rebuilding will never be finished and deride a process that produced 19 wins in 2013-14 and 18 wins last season.
Hinkie did not talk about victories when asked what’s next for the organization. Instead, he said the focus of everybody in the organization — including the junior interns — is making the players better.
“This group will play hard,” Hinkie said. “We have a number of guys who are young and hungry. There’s a character about all the guys here about being hungry every night — hungry to show that they belong and a few of them to remind people that they belong.”
As for coach Brett Brown, he is about to begin the third year of his four-year deal. Brown has said he does not want to talk about his contract. Usually teams offer coaches a new deal the year before a contract expires because they do not want a lame-duck coach in charge of their team.
Hinkie said contract talks between Brown and the team are private.
“Brett has been a real pleasure, and I suspect will continue to be a real pleasure to work with,” Hinkie said. “I’ve learned a lot about him since we hired him and almost all of it is positive. He has an everyday positivity about him that is important for our program. I think our respect for one another grows week by week.”
Both Hinkie and Brown don’t talk of the 76ers being a contender this season. Rookie center Jahlil Okafor is 19 years old, while center Nerlens Noel and guard Nik Stauskas are both 21. Philly is still searching for a point guard. With that type of youth in key spots, 25 wins seams like a realistic goal.
The players, however, have talked this week of making the playoffs.
“I don’t think you’d want players who didn’t talk about the playoffs,” Hinkie said. “A lot of our guys, and I think a lot of you, look at them and smile when they say things like that. The first step in being great is wanting to be great. The second step is saying you want to be great.”
The third step in being great is winning more games than you lose. Unfortunately for 76ers fans, that still seems at least a season away.