Sam Hinkie’s utter masterpiece seems to extend beyond the Wells Fargo Center and the Sixers organization. Before I get into his direct correlation on my lord and savior Carson Wentz, I want to point something out about Hinkie, the Godfather of us all.
If you would have told me, or my dad, or my friend, or my friend’s dad, my my friend’s dad’s coworker, or my uncle, or my mom in, say, 2009 that there would be a figure in the Philadelphia sports realm that would encourage us, successfully, to embrace losing, we all would have laughed very hard at you. If you said that someone would come to Philadelphia, the town where we crucify even the rather storied career of Donovan McNabb, and tell us that “hey, losing is going to be OKAY for just a little while” and we’d all be okay with it, you would’ve been burned at the stake. Or walked the plank. Or been executed as a witch in a medieval fashion of your choice.
Hinkie did the impossible. Sure, I think there’s some truth to “well, basketball is different than other sports.” Even with the lottery in place, with such small rosters and top-heavy drafts, basketball encourages tanking more so than the NFL or MLB (I don’t know anything about hockey, full disclosure). But, in 2011, if the Eagles had been mired in organizational limbo and Howie Roseman had said, “Fans, we’re going to go 1-15 this year, but there’s this kid coming out of Stanford and, oh boy, he’s going to turn this franchise around,” Philadelphia would’ve run Roseman out of town. And Andrew Luck is just an example – as much as we love Carson Wentz, we sold the farm to sneak up to #2 and draft him. In 2015, had Roseman tanked for the North Dakota State phenom, Philadelphia again would have held Roseman by the neck.
After the dreadful 2011 NLCS Game 5 defeat to St. Louis, had Ruben Amaro Jr. said “Fans, we’re going to sell, sell, sell right now in the off-season. We’re going to ignite a full rebuild so all of our prospects are on the same timeline,” again, Philly fans would have pelted Amaro with snowballs. I know, that’s partly because our hearts were (and still are) tied to Rollins and Utley and Howard, but you get my drift – Philly has never been a city to embrace such a drastic philosophical change, especially when that change involves intentionally losing. The idea and inner machinations of “The Process” would have been unfathomable to 6th grade me.
Four years ago last night, on 6/27/13, Hinkie traded Jrue Holiday for Nerlens Noel (the deal was a bit more complicated, but at its barest form, it was a Holiday-Noel swap). He also drafted and stashed a mysterious Homie. I, too, was skeptical at first. I don’t have the time to go find my archived tweet from that night or the day after, but it was something like “I’m not sure I understand trading away an all-star franchise point guard for a guy with the frame of a telephone pole.” I ended up being sort of right about Noel and sort of missing on Holiday, but either way I was, at the time, blind to the larger operation. Later, Hinkie would dump Turner and Young and everyone else – then most people bought in. Howard Eskin didn’t, along with some of the other local radio guys, but most millennials bought in. We were scared of being the Atlanta Hawks. We didn’t want to finish 8th or 5th or 7th forever – we wanted titles. Hinkie knew that. Not only did he put the franchise in a position where titles in 2021, 2022, and beyond aren’t unfathomable, but he made us young Sixer fans believers during the process – not just after.
It wasn’t like last Thursday all of Philadelphia sat up and went, “Oh shit, you know this Hinkie thing actually worked! Damn!” We’ve known this was on the right track for a long, long time. Hinkie actually pulling off this heist is only his second miracle – getting the larger portion of Philadelphia, especially the younger demographic, to whole-heartedly buy in was Hinkie’s true work of art.
So, how in God’s name does Carson Wentz play into Hinkie’s Process?
No, it’s not because the Eagles “saw the light” and realized that moving up in the league’s respective draft was the only way to acquire organization-changing talent. Roseman wasn’t watching Hinkie thinking, “Huh, I guess we need to get the second overall pick.”
But look where we stand now. The Sixers season ended on April 12th. We spent the next month doing mock drafts. We predicted where Philly would be slotted in the lottery and drafted accordingly. We dreamt of pick swaps and the Lakers falling to 4. Then, ping-pong ball night arrived and we saw the Sixers land at 3 and take a one-year flyer on the Lakers’ pick. Then, for almost a month, we speculated. Jackson or Tatum? Fox? Can he shoot? What about Isaac? I mean, Monk will be there? Wait, what if LA passes on Ball?
Then, the weekend before the draft, we were blessed with a Colangelo masterpiece that landed the #1 pick (and presumably, Markelle Fultz) for just one of the Sixers’ 4 first round picks in 2018 and 2019. Since then, we’ve salivated at the notion of all six pick-and-roll combos involving Simmons, Fultz and Embiid. We’ve raved about how now Covington can really settle into his role as defensive specialist and spot up shooter. We’ve forgotten all about Okafor (but that’s ok). We’ve verbally bounced around their playoff chances and season tickets sold out almost pronto.
On July 1st, free agency will open up and the Sixers likely will look at JJ Redick and a return trip for Andre Iguodala. The Sixers can overpay for both because by the time their 2-3 year deals expire, it’ll be just in time to re-up on Simmons and Fultz. Considering the Sixers are looking to extend Embiid this off-season, the only three large contracts on the books then for the next few years would be Jojo, Iggy, and JJ. JJ brings pinpoint accuracy from beyond, and both Andre and JJ provide a crucial veteran, big brother presence.
By then, it’ll be July 10th or so. Markelle Fultz Summer League action will run right into Eagles training camp and BOOM. Football season is here.
We all know Philadelphia is an Eagles town. But, you know who we’ve all thought about shockingly little in these last couple months? Sophomore quarterback, Carson Wentz. That’s right. The Eagles have a promising, young franchise cornerstone entering a make-or-break second season in the NFL – and he’s not even close to the main story for Philadelphia media outlets! The only thing I’ve heard about Wentz in the last few months is that he showcased improved mechanics in OTA’s… And that’s it! Wentz has flown wholly under the radar. Considering he’s from the backcountry of North Dakota, that’s probably something he’s used to and comfortable with.
Carson Wentz consumed the Philadelphia limelight in 2016. It’s not that he handled it without grace – but it’s hard to argue with the idea that maybe Carson would prefer if there wasn’t any media at all surrounding him. That’s exactly what he’s been awarded.
Now, training camp will heat up in late July and I’m sure Carson Wentz will inherently weasel his way back into the daily news cycle as the season opener approaches – but for Carson Wentz to fall so far back in the Philly media spotlight during his first full off-season as an Eagle is not only shocking, but an absolute blessing. He’s been able to work out, develop, and just plain relax without big brother constantly peering over his shoulder. You just have to think Carson LOVES that. He’s been Philadelphia’s #5 behind Hinkie, Fultz, Embiid and Simmons.
In August, he’ll be #1 again. But Carson was lucky he wasn’t #1 from February through August, considering the state of that baseball team (or sorry excuse for a baseball team) that sometimes plays in South Philly.
Sam Hinkie is like that grandparent who shows up and Christmas and just keeps pulling presents out of his suitcase. Most of those gifts this spring and summer have been for the Sixers, but diverting the Philly limelight away from Carson for 3, 4, even 5 months was the best gift the North Dakota kid could have asked for.