Sixers GM Hinkie talks about search for coach, reaching out to fans

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It’s not just Charles Barkley who is confused.

There are fans in Philadelphia who heard little out of the organization while 12 other NBA coaches were hired and wondered what was going on. They watched the team’s popular All-Star point guard get traded away to usher in another rebuilding effort. They know they’re in for a rough season.

To some there seemed to be a distance with new GM Sam Hinkie —particularly media members used to Doug Collins and who now had a tougher job. Certainly some fans and some media members didn’t like the choices and the secrecy. Hinkie talked about liking to keep his cards close to his vest in a Q&A with the Philadelphia Daily News.

I think our fans will find me to be plenty open when we get to know each other. Our coaching search took quite a while and that may have caused that. Every little edge you can get is important. There is some level of secrecy as teams try not to let on to what they’re doing. If we were to have had Nerlens Noel come in and work out before the draft, that would have caused a stir being that we had the 11th pick, and the kind of things that happened on draft night (trading Jrue Holiday to New Orleans for Noel) possibly couldn’t have been possible. So we chose not to let teams know who we are working out, and a lot of forward-thinking organizations do that with the comings and goings of potential players.

But man, that coaching search did drag out, right?

I would say things largely progressed as I would have anticipated. Finding the right guy was always the priority, and when we did in Brett Brown we moved forward. Our first interviews were in Las Vegas in mid-July when I went out there for the summer league, just after the Orlando Summer League. It was a solid week of interviews. Then there were a few more to follow and then some more. I was focused immensely on finding who was the best fit for what we were looking to do.

Hinkie talks about using analytics — we all tend to focus on that but in reality the situation is much more complex. Like in the book “Moneyball” (not the movie, which plays up the drama more), the goal of the team was to find value where other teams were not looking. To do that in the NBA means using traditional scouting, analytics and any other information you have. Hinkie talks about being a guy who wants to get as much info as he can before making a decision, and that’s a good thing.

Part of being a GM in today’s game is dealing with the media and communicating with the fans. Hinkie got hired and was thrust quickly into a draft and free agency (not to mention that coaching search) and so time for building the public relationship wasn’t there. He said he wants to be open… but not too open.

I can’t speak to what happened before I got here, but going forward I see coach Brown and I to be open about all the decisions we make – the trades and the acquisitions and how we see things unfolding and what parts we’re excited about. I don’t think we will ever be a team that talks about the very next thing we’re going to do. That is giving an advantage to the other 29 competing teams. We have to find the right balance there for the organization and keeping the fans informed.

Like every GM, it will ultimately come down to wins and losses. This in the end is a pretty bottom line business — if in three years you can see a foundation for the Sixers built around young players (like Noel and future draft picks) that can compete at the highest levels of the sport, pretty much all will be forgiven. But if the rebuilding plan falls apart for any number of reasons, fans will turn on Hinkie and so ultimately will ownership.

Hinkie knows all this. Win or lose, Hinkie wants to go about it his way. You can’t blame him for that.

Blazers beat Lakers 97-81, tie Denver for final spot in West

Associated Press
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Damian Lillard scored 22 points and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Los Angeles Lakers 97-81 on Sunday night to pull even with Denver in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Both the Blazers and Nuggets are 35-38 with nine games left in the regular season. They play each other Tuesday in Portland.

Denver lost at home to the New Orleans Pelicans earlier Sunday night.

Portland took control by outscoring the Lakers 37-24 in the third quarter and led by as many as 26 points. Los Angeles shot 39 percent from the field and was outrebounded 61-42.

Allen Crabbe added 18 points off the bench for the Blazers, and Noah Vonleh grabbed 14 rebounds.

D'Angelo Russell led the Lakers with 22 points, and reserve Tyler Ennis scored 14.

Portland led 40-32 at the break after an unsightly half in which the teams took turns struggling from the field. At halftime, both were shooting exactly 32.6 percent.

The Lakers won their previous game against the Timberwolves but have won consecutive games only once since mid-November.

TIP-INS

Trail Blazers: Shot 62.4 percent against Minnesota on Saturday, their best mark since hitting 64.1 percent on March 12, 2003. Coming into Sunday, they had shot 50.6 percent over their last five games.

Lakers: Rookie forward Brandon Ingram, who started the previous 19 games and averaged 12.1 points on 48.4 percent shooting, did not play because of right patellar tendinitis. Said coach Luke Walton: “He was out there warming up and it’s not right.” Corey Brewer got his first start for the Lakers.

 

Watch Russell Westbrook drop a triple-double in epic battle with James Harden (VIDEO)

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HOUSTON (AP) Lou Williams scored 31 points off the bench, James Harden finished with 22 points and 12 assists, and the Houston Rockets never trailed while cruising to a 137-125 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday.

Russell Westbrook had 39 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists for his second straight triple-double and his 36th this season, but Harden led the Rockets to a 25-point lead through three quarters in the matchup between top MVP candidates.

Trevor Ariza and Eric Gordon added 24 points apiece for the Rockets, whose lead was trimmed to eight on a 3-pointer by Westbrook with about 90 seconds left. The Rockets scored four quick points after that to secure the victory.

Harden left late in the game after crashing into the court and appearing to injure his left wrist but said in a TV interview he expected to be OK.

Houston jumped out to a 9-0 lead and was up by at least 20 for most of the game. It was a stark change from the first three games between these teams this season, which were decided by a combined seven points.

Williams made 11 of 15 shots, going 7 of 8 on 3-pointers. He didn’t miss a shot until his layup was blocked by Jerami Grant early in the fourth quarter.

Houston won its fourth straight overall and has won nine of their past 12 games against the Thunder.

The Rockets shot 71 percent in the first half, and Harden made a layup before grabbing a rebound and hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer to extend Houston’s lead to 113-88 entering the fourth quarter.

The Thunder chipped away with a 12-4 run midway through the fourth quarter to get within 126-114 with 4 minutes left. Williams hit a 3-pointer after that to slow down the Thunder the team’s late run.

The Rockets had a 16-point lead in the third quarter before they used a 13-4 run to make it 108-83 with about 90 seconds left in the quarter. Williams had two 3-pointers in that stretch and a highlight came when Houston stripped the ball from Westbrook and Harden dished to Ariza, who finished with another 3. The run wrapped up with an alley-oop dunk from Harden to Clint Capela, but Capela received a technical on the play for hanging on the rim.

Mike D’Antoni received a technical seconds later for arguing that call.

Houston had built a 79-59 lead by halftime thanks in part to nearly perfect 3-point shooting by Trevor Ariza and Williams. Ariza made four of five attempts and had 16 points at the break, and Williams was a perfect 6 for 6 overall, with four 3-pointers to pile up 18 points in the first two quarters.

TIP-INS

Thunder: Victor Oladipo finished with 15 points. … Steven Adams and Alex Abrines scored 11 points apiece.

Rockets: Houston’s 79 points were the most the team has scored in a half this season. … Sunday was the 12th time this season where the Rockets had 100 points before the fourth quarter. … Williams had at least 20 points off the bench for the 29th time this season.

ANDERSON’S HEALTH

Houston’s Ryan Anderson will miss about two weeks after spraining his right ankle on Friday night against the Pelicans. D’Antoni hopes Anderson will recover in time to play the last couple of regular-season games and be at full strength for the start of the playoffs.

UP NEXT

Thunder: Visit Dallas on Monday.

Rockets: Host Golden State on Tuesday.

Watch every one of Jimmy Butler’s career-high 14 assists in win over Bucks (VIDEO)

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Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler seems to be thriving without backcourt teammate Dwyane Wade. On Sunday in a win against the Milwaukee Bucks, Butler dished out a career-high 14 assists to go along with 20 points, six rebounds, and three steals.

Butler, 27, helped Chicago to a 109-94 win over the Bucks. He looked good doing it, dropping dimes off of both the pick-and-roll and while coming off screens.

The NBA put together a handy little video to be able to check out all of Butler’s assists.

Clippers blow 18-point lead, lose in final 2 seconds on putback to Kings (VIDEO)

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The Los Angeles Clippers had a rough go of things against the Sacramento Kings on Sunday. Up by 18 with more than five minutes to go, LA blew their lead and were left to watch as the Kings sealed the game late.

The final possession for Sacramento came on a missed corner 3-pointer by Clippers guard Jamal Crawford. The Kings got the outlet pass out on the rebound, but Ben McLemore took it to the rack and missed. That’s when Willie Cauley-Stein stepped in, cleaned up the board, and put the game-winning shot home with less than two seconds left.

Los Angeles lost in spectacular fashion, and became the only team this season to lose given their game situation.

Here’s a compilation the NBA put together of Sacramento’s epic comeback:

Meanwhile, Chris Paul called it the worst regular season loss of his career.

The Clippers peaked too soon. Like, the first 20 games of the season too soon.