SALT LAKE CITY - It has been a busy summer for 76ers president/general manager Sam Hinkie, much like the other two since he arrived in Philadelphia. A combined 37-127 record during his first two seasons didn't make this offseason any different than the others. "The Process" is still to accumulate the best players possible and to eventually become championship contenders for a long time.
During a sit-down before the Sixers' summer-league game last night, Hinkie talked about much of what has been on fans' minds. He couldn't discuss the pending trade with the Sacramento Kings that involved Nik Stauskas, because it has yet to be finalized. That is expected to happen as early as today or by the end of the weekend.
Question: What is the latest with Joel Embiid? The fact that it's taken some time to give an update, does that mean news isn't favorable?
Answer: There are meetings with various doctors who have various opinions. There are meetings with our staff about what is best for him. It's still ongoing. I think we're close [to announcing a decision]. My guess is maybe sometime next week. I don't think it will be too much longer. There hasn't been more news since the initial press release. We're just circling around a lot of the experts in this field to get their opinions. That's an important phrase - their opinions - on what course of action is best. They don't all agree sometimes. So that process takes a while.
Q: If some doctors say no and others are OK with him playing, how much of a say does Joel Embiid have in whether he plays or not? What if he says "I want to go''?
A: It's important. He's a part of this. He's a young player, and we have some expertise that we can help him with and ask questions on his behalf. He's an adult so we keep him involved every step of the way. In some ways we drive this process for him, but in some ways we're advocates on his behalf. We try to get great advice for him and for us. We wouldn't let something silly happen in either direction, so Step 1 is finding out what is silly.
Q: He had been playing and feeling great right up until the CT scan. What was his reaction to the news, and how did you handle it with him?
A: Surprised. He was surprised. Immediately I got on a flight and flew to California and took him to the surgeon. We started asking questions. We asked a ton of questions, from about him still growing to everything. Any professional athlete, much less someone as good and as big as him, there's lots of question about, "Is this case down the middle normal, like ones you've seen, or how exceptional is this case?"
Q: After all the losing that the first two seasons have involved, was there a different feeling for you going into this summer than the others? Did you feel an immediacy to win more games?
A: Not a lot. We try to be opportunistic year-round, not just summer-to-summer, but year-round. We try to predict what opportunities might come our way and think ahead of time about what opportunities we might be interested in and what ones we would clearly let pass. The flow of those opportunities is uncertain. We don't ever know when they'll come but we try to be out in a lot of those situations to understand what might happen.
Q: Does seeing Jahlil Okafor on the floor give you a better feeling on how pairing him with Embiid and Nerlens Noel will work?
A: I've enjoyed watching his first week of development. We pay attention to his early-morning workouts, extra free-throw sessions, strength and conditioning workouts, the games. We've only had three games, but we've had lots of moments and it's been good to watch. It's been fun. Some would say it's the first high pick we've had that we've seen immediately.
I think most of our focus is on each guy's individual game and what they need to get better at and what they're good at already. We watch that with everybody, see what they do well and the things they really have to work on.
Q: Many would say it's become a perimeter league. You have gathered what seems to be a formidable inside game. Do you believe you win with big men?
A: I've never been too dogmatic about it's all this or it's all that. The things that big men have provided over the years are, in some ways, more important than they've ever been. They just might be scarcer than they've ever been, the ones that can really provide it. At the same time, you see lots of small players that are doing really well, too. I don't think there's one way to do it. I think if you look at the last 20 years, there hasn't been one way to do it. What has been clear, even over the last 20 years, is that the best players do just fine.
Q: You've never brought up the word, but many wonder if this is another "tanking" year. It would seem with more talent would come more winning. Is that OK in this point of the process?
A: Our focus is on each of our players and their individual development and how that can all fit together. That's been pretty consistent for us and that will be consistent for us going forward. We'll take the results as they come. It's important that what drives us are our players that will be a part of our future. That hasn't changed.
Q: Brett Brown did have the comment last season about not coaching gypsies anymore. It seemed to show a little bit of frustration, maybe some disconnect. How was that addressed, and did it affect things moving forward?
A: Brett's been a fantastic partner in this all along. He phrases it that he and I do this together. I think that is totally fair. If you looked at our calendars and how much time we spend together and types of conversation we have that are genuine and deep about tonight, tomorrow, a year from now, five years from now . . . Often the simplest answer is the most likely answer, which is maybe we just want the same thing. That is to put ourselves in position to build something really special for the city.