PHILADELPHIA — On the day the Philadelphia 76ers introduced their new general manager, owner Josh Harris ended his remarks with an encouraging message for a battered fanbase:
“Stay tuned for more from the Sixers organization.”
Turns out, their next update will be the first since they hired Sam Hinkie to run the team on May 14.
Hinkie and the Sixers haven’t just gone radio silent. They’ve suffered a power outage.
The inner workings of a revamped front office have become as much a mystery as the player the Sixers will select with the 11th overall pick in Thursday’s draft.
Outside of a cameo appearance at a local screening of a Julius Erving film, Hinkie has been absent from public view since he was introduced as team president and GM.
Hinkie has refused to offer updates on draft workouts, as well, and has not even publicly released names.
No interviews with the media. No meet-and-greets with fans. Nothing.
And the coach? Oh yeah, the Sixers still need one more than two months after Doug Collins resigned.
After spending the last two years courting fans, even inviting them to crash a press conference, the Sixers have become the neighbors who put up a “No Trespassing” sign and yell, “Get off my lawn!”
The Philadelphia Daily News on Wednesday ran the backpage headline: “What’s The Plan, Sam? Sixers GM will come out of hiding for tomorrow’s draft.”
Perhaps if he sees his shadow it will be six more years of bad basketball.
Just a year ago, the Sixers were the talk of Philly for the first time since former guard Allen Iverson was an MVP. They knocked off the top-seeded Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs and were on the brink of acquiring All-Star center Andrew Bynum. Led by Harris and CEO Adam Aron, the new ownership group won back fans with slashed ticket prices, confetti cannons, Will Smith pumping up the crowd, and a reconnection with past stars such as Julius Erving.
Of course, the first winning record in years also helped.
But the goodwill was short-lived once Bynum went bust because of bone bruises on his knees. The losses piled up quickly, resulting in a 34-48 record, and Collins quit with a year left on his deal.
Exit, Collins, GM Tony DiLeo and president Rod Thorn. Enter, Hinkie.
Hinkie spent the last eight years in Houston and was the executive vice president of basketball operations for the Rockets. He wants the 76ers to use the analytics-type of thinking popularized in baseball to build a championship team in Philadelphia.
“After he got that great swearing in,” Bynum agent David Lee said, “no one’s heard from him.”
Bynum is unlikely to return after he failed to play a game for the Sixers in his one-season stint. Bynum was acquired last summer in a four-team trade that saw the Sixers deal Andre Iguodala to Denver and Nikola Vucevic to Orlando.
Both players would have been pretty useful and might have kept the Sixers out of the draft lottery. The Sixers also have two second-round picks (Nos. 35 and 42).
Of course, Hinkie has to rise above a fairly spotty draft record over the last few years with this team.
Mo Harkless, last year’s first-round pick, had a solid rookie season — playing for Orlando as part of the Bynum deal. Vucevic was the first pick in 2011 and Evan Turner hasn’t become anything close to a franchise player after he was selected No. 2 overall in 2010. All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday was a steal at No. 17 in 2009 and Thaddeus Young was a fantastic choice at No. 12 in 2007.
None of those players could keep the Sixers out of the lottery this season, though. And clearly, they need help all across the board — from a big man like Indiana’s Cody Zeller to a guard like Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum.
And who will lead them? Collins had pushed for assistant Michael Curry, a former head coach at Detroit, to take over. But there’s no telling how long the Sixers will drag out the search.
“I want to build a leading basketball operation that consistently makes high-quality decisions,” Hinkie said when he was hired. “But first I’ll do a lot, a lot, of listening.”
And no talking.