In his most recent piece for ESPN The Magazine, senior writer Pablo S. Torre sat down with Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie to discuss his vision for the franchise, which is 31-104 since the start of last season.
Hinkie, 37, does not have a reputation as someone who does in-depth, sit-down interviews. So, just how hard was it to get him to do this one?
“Incredibly, incredibly hard,” Torre said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “It was one of those things where, it’s weird. The upshot, I think, for a lot of people is kind of what you hinted at – that they kind of get what the 76ers are actually trying to do, especially behind the scenes. But to Sam, he’s one of these obsessive – you might call him neurotic; I don’t want to get too pejorative – but one of these obsessive guys who’s ironically consumed with winning. So one of the things he does not want is for the market to shift underneath his feet and for people to sort of realize (that) maybe what the Sixers are doing isn’t so insane after all, and maybe we should be competing with them in all of these different avenues that they’re perusing.”
The 76ers are 12-41 this season – good enough for the third-worst record in basketball – and are well on their way to another lottery pick.
Torre found it symbolic that Hinkie’s favorite author is Robert Caro, who is known for writing incredibly long biographies, sometimes 1,000 pages or more.
“(Caro is) one of these guys who took so long to create the thing that – in the eyes of everybody at this point – are fantastic, Pulitzer Prize-winning works,” Torre explained. “And at the time, he ended up having to sacrifice a lot and it didn’t look like he was going to come out with anything. But Sam Hinkie found a certain kinship in a guy who doesn’t pay attention to the clock and is kind of operating under his own principles (and process).”
Still, a lot of people in the NBA dislike that the Sixers are essentially tanking on purpose simply to stockpile draft picks. There just seems something fundamentally wrong about not even trying to compete. Is Hinkie aware of that criticism?
“In fact,” Torre said, “one of the ironic things about him is that you might say, ‘Well aren’t you bothered by all of this (negative) press?’ And one of the approaches that he takes is, let everybody talk while we’re working. He wants to get away with his entire plan with as little interference as possible. If people think he’s silly and he’s stupid and doesn’t know what he’s doing, that’s honestly to his advantage. (Within) the league, there is a certain kind of moral repulsion. People don’t like the fact that teams aren’t prioritizing winning. That seems like an affront to what sports are all about.
“But in age when you have billionaires buying teams and all people are doing is fetishizing winning that ring and getting to a point of championship contention, well then maybe you can sort of structure a plan that maybe isn’t palatable to a lot of people but might increase your odds at actually winning something.”