ANGELO CATALDI: 76ers GM Sam Hinkie has a plan, but is it a good one?

Sam Hinkie traded Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner, clearing cap space and accumulating draft picks. Credit: Getty Images
Sam Hinkie traded Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner, clearing cap space and accumulating draft picks. Credit: Getty Images

Sam Hinkie poked his head out last Friday and predicted six more weeks of losing for the Sixers. The big question now is, how can we be sure it won’t be six more years of losing?

After a flurry of trade-deadline deals, the GM had no choice but to make his annual appearance, even though he looks every bit as petrified of the bright lights as the legendary groundhog he resembles. As usual, he offered no cause for celebration and little reason for optimism.

Philadelphia has never had a GM like Hinkie, a man with no track record and absolutely no regard for his public image. He has been dynamic in tearing down the decaying mess that the Sixers had become, but he has done almost nothing so far to rebuild it.

For example, at the trade deadline last Thursday, Hinkie swung four deals that flushed away draft bust Evan Turner, mediocre big man Spencer Hawes and useless Lavoy Allen. In return, the GM got a bundle of rejects that promise no help in the immediate future and six largely worthless second-round draft picks. Garbage in, garbage out.

In fact, although Hinkie has received rave reviews for gutting the Sixer roster, he has really brought in only one player who projects as a major contributor, Michael Carter-Williams. Instead, the GM has built up close to $30 million in salary-cap space and stockpiled draft choices. He does appear to have a plan, though he has no interest in sharing any of it with the fans.

On those rare occasions when he does speak, Hinkie is no charmer. He stressed again last week the need to manipulate the bizarre NBA system that encourages teams to fail spectacularly before they rebuild. He’s not hiding from the fact that the Sixers will probably lose most of their games for the rest of this already horrific season.

And that’s just fine with the people who still care. What isn’t so fine is a sports executive who has been shirking a major part of his job, and that’s basic communication. If Hinkie doesn’t think public speaking is important, he should have a conversation with Joe Banner, the former GM who won big in Philadelphia and is still despised by Eagles fans.

No one is asking the Sixers to reveal the blueprint for their future – if indeed there is one – but fans need something more tangible than an annual appearance by the socially awkward architect of the team to rekindle their interest.

Thanks to the pitiful work of roster butchers Ed Stefanski, Tony DiLeo and Doug Collins, the bar is low for Sam Hinkie. All he needs to do right now is to talk to the fans, give them some reason to believe he’s better than the losers who preceded him. Is that really asking too much?

Phillies dealing with draft pick a scar on organization

The Phillies have been accused of many things in their descent from the pinnacle of baseball since 2008 – stupid, short-sighted, reactionary, lost – but no one has ever called them dishonorable. After a shocking story last week, however, that description may soon apply to them as well.

According to many reports, the Phillies violated baseball protocol after failing to sign their fifth and sixth-round draft picks – pitcher Ben Wetzler of Oregon State and outfielder Jason Monda of Washington State – by notifying the NCAA that the two college players were using agents, a major violation. Ultimately, Wetzler was suspended 11 games, and Monda was exonerated.

The speculation is that the Phils were so disappointed when the players rejected their contract offers that they reacted with emotion instead of reason. Players decide to stay in school every year, and almost never does the snubbed big-league team react this way. In fact, no such complaint had been filed in 22 years before the Phils did it twice this year.

What makes this story even more perplexing is that embattled GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has refused to offer any insight into what happened. In the worst of times, Amaro has always been willing to tell his side of the story. Why is he hiding now? Why did he issue a statement Saturday that revealed nothing? Is he protecting a rogue scout – or himself?

Regardless of the explanation, the Phillies will lose much more than they gained by turning in their draftees. College players will be reluctant to negotiate with them, agents will be less likely to recommend them, and fans will just see it as the latest example of a team desperately needing new direction – and a new general manager.

Eagles should choose Cooper, not Maclin

After a magical season and two extra months of quiet satisfaction, the Eagles are about to make their first major mistake of the off-season. They appear poised to choose Jeremy Maclin over Riley Cooper in the quandary over free-agent wide receivers. They will regret this.

A year ago, Maclin was so far ahead of Cooper on the depth chart, there would have been no debate at all. Maclin was more accomplished in every area – catches, receiving yards, touchdowns. He was a productive partner for DeSean Jackson, and a class act, to boot. Meanwhile, Cooper was fighting for a spot on the roster, and soon would be trying to survive an ugly racial incident.

Then fate intervened. Maclin tore his ACL and required reconstructive surgery, while Cooper was overseeing a reconstruction project of his own, emerging as new quarterback Nick Foles’ favorite target. Foles’ most impressive stats last season were 29 touchdown passes and only two interceptions. No teammate was more helpful in compiling those amazing numbers than Cooper.

The Eagles have insisted that the racial issue is no factor at all in appraising the two players, but what other reasoning could place Maclin’s value about Cooper’s? How can the Eagles even be sure that Maclin will have his same speed and agility after his second major knee surgery? What makes them think Foles will develop the same chemistry with Maclin that he had with Cooper?

By all accounts, the market for Cooper will be more competitive than for Maclin, because of the injury. Two weeks before the free-agency period begins, New England has already been identified as one of his main suitors. The Eagles need to make a preemptive strike right now and sign Cooper, baggage be damned. He gives them a better chance to win next season. It’s that simple.

Idle thoughts

  • Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez agreed to a $48-million deal with the Phillies last summer, had that number slashed to $12 million after flunking his physical and has been a bust so far in Clearwater. How could the Phillies be so wrong about the Cuban pitcher? A better question: How many more blunders like this does GM Ruben Amaro Jr. get to make?
  • Carlos Ruiz finally got a prescription for Adderall, the drug he was taking illegally during his best season with the Phillies in 2012. Why didn’t the Phillies get him back on the medication – legally this time – until after his batting average had dropped from .325 to .268 last season?
  • The Don Tollefson story just keeps getting worse. The former TV broadcaster was arrested last week and charged with bilking more than 100 victims of over $100,000. If the allegations are true that he used his fame to con Philadelphia sports fans, he needs to spend some time in prison.
  • A movement is afoot to have legendary Philadelphia writer Bill Conlin ousted from the Baseball Hall of Fame after allegations of sex abuse by members of his own family. Since Conlin made no attempt to clear his name – as he had promised – before his death in January, he is no longer worthy of the honor.
  •  Sports fans, you may resume your normal lives. The Olympics are over. Hallelujah.


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