Did Sam Hinkie sneak back into the building, lock himself in his office without talking to anyone (as he did regularly for entire days, according to one former Sixers employee), commandeer the phones and make all those moves the last few days?
I thought the new regime was going to try to win games, not just play it forward with draft choices. Like so many around here, I really enjoyed watching the Sixers in January and February, with Joel Embiid and without him. Passing the ball more times per game than any team in the NBA, they demonstrated a real joy in their game.
You could see the players genuinely liked playing with one another other and that Brett Brown, finally released from basketball purgatory with more talent and some actual experienced NBA players, could coach.
So, on Wednesday, Ersan Ilyasova, a perfect shooting complement for Embiid and a solid veteran who knows how to play, was gone to Atlanta. And, on Thursday, Nerlens Noel, one of the few high-level athletes on the roster and starting to find a real role, was sent to Dallas.
I get the business stuff that they might end up with nothing for them if they walked at the end of the season. But, at some point, you have to put an actual basketball team together. This was starting to look like an actual basketball team.
Perhaps Noel and Ilyasova would have been overpriced in what is often an insane free-agent market. Still, I like to watch good basketball. Now, with Embiid in injury limbo and Ben Simmons who knows where, this will not be good basketball for the next few months — again.
I get that Simmons will play eventually and that they have a ton of draft choices. But that is all hope at this stage. This was finally starting to look real and they hit the reset button — again.
By the way, how does Jahlil Okafor like New Orleans? Or was that Chicago? He’s still here? Really.
Obviously, the market was even worse than the Sixers imagined for the third pick in the 2015 draft. So Okafor sits some games, starts others and neither the team nor the player knows the endgame.
By the way, I was a Justin Anderson fan when he had his breakout season at Virginia in 2014-15. He was a great defender on the country’s best defensive team when he broke a finger on his left (shooting hand), with his team 21-1. He was averaging 13.9 points (on a very low-scoring team), while shooting 50 percent from three on 46 makes, before he got hurt.
Not sure what went on in Dallas the last two seasons when Anderson got minimal run for an aging team heading nowhere. I doubt he will be a star here, but he may help.
Still, what is this team exactly? It is about to get younger — again. Embiid, as talented and exciting as he, is still a long-term unknown, with his reckless style that is hard not to appreciate, but might not be in his best long-term interest. Simmons is a very exciting prospect, but, until he plays, it is hard to be certain where he fits in an NBA that remains unforgiving.
Hinkie gets credit for Dario Saric, who has turned out much better than I remember seeing on tape three years ago, looking very much now like a player with a higher ceiling than I envisioned.
So, Embiid, Simmons and Saric are a nice foundation for a house that has been under construction for almost four years now. Time, by the way, marches on and I really hate to spoil all the fun by bringing up LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Bosh and LaMarcus Aldridge. You may have heard of them.
Once upon a time, four wise teams drafted them. They really liked their houses, but eventually they all moved to bigger ones, houses with older, better players, a better chance to win a championship. Those better homes could be a potential problem for a team that is forever worried about business and the future and never really commits to making its house the nicest one in the neighborhood.