He made it sound simple. And it is.
“The whole purpose of this year,” Brett Brown said, “has been about identifying people to move forward with.”
The Sixers made their plans plain the moment Sam Hinkie was installed as the president and general manager: Sacrifice today in favor of tomorrow. They adopted a super-subtle slogan to underscore the reality: “Together we build.” And to reinforce their intentions, they handed out faux blueprints on Tuesday evening before the Cavaliers throttled the Sixers, 114-85, at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay). (It was the Sixers' 40th loss of the season. They’re getting really good at not being good.)
Once unrolled, the blueprint mapped out how the Sixers are “building the next big thing for Philadelphia.” An “NBA draft tracker” was at the bottom of the blueprint (along with a line about “2 potential 1st round picks” written in red). In the center, there were pictures of Nerlens Noel, Michael Carter-Williams and Brett Brown.
Not pictured: Everyone else.
Noel, MCW and Brown have already been identified and will move forward with the Sixers. As for the rest, nothing is certain. The trade deadline looms. It is Thursday afternoon -- not that any of the Sixers need to be reminded.
Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young have spent much of the season answering questions about various reports and rumors. They’ve exhausted so much time on the subject that Turner recently said he’s “excited” for the trade deadline because it’s “like a riddle” (see story). (That would make Hinkie the Riddler, which makes for interesting imagery.)
If the Sixers extend a qualifying offer during the offseason, Turner will be a restricted free agent. Or they might not extend an offer, at which point he’ll be an unrestricted free agent. Or they might trade him before Thursday. Lots of possibilities -- for him and Hawes and Young.
Hawes will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Young is under contract for next season and has a player option for the season after that. You could imagine all sorts of possibilities -- scenarios in which they’re unloaded now or later or not at all.
“The situation being an expiring deal, and the situation with the team, it’s kind of a perfect storm for that kind of chatter,” Hawes said.
Has it bothered him? Like Turner, will he feel any sense of relief, one way or the other, to finally learn his fate?
“To be a successful athlete, you really have to be in a routine,” Hawes said. “Not having that certainty, I think, can disrupt that pattern. I think that’s what can kind of get on your nerves.”
Across the locker room, Young was asked essentially the same questions. He said Philadelphia has been home for the past seven years and the Sixers have been like family. He said he’d like to stay, even though he knows he might have to go.
“The trade deadline is almost upon us and whatever happens, happens,” Young said. “Like I’ve been saying, if they see fit to trade me, Spence or Evan, we have to move on like anybody else. It’s one of those deals where, hey, it’s an unfortunate situations. You just have to play it out and be a business-like professional.”
What about Hawes? When he was asked what he’d like to happen in advance of the deadline, his answer was a bit more opaque.
“Play it out and see where it goes,” Hawes said. “One way or another, part of being a professional is being ready and seeing where the road takes you. This time of year, it’s different than free agency when you have a lot of control over it. At this point, you don’t.”
Hawes said there are a lot of variables between now and free agency. And there are. There are also a lot of variables between now and Thursday afternoon. How will they spend their time between now and then? Will they read everything and watch everything and listen to every report? Or will they try to ignore the speculation and wait until something concrete occurs?
Young -- ever the business-like professional -- said he’ll do what he always does: Show up for work until someone tells him to do otherwise.
“Next game, Dallas Mavericks,” Young said. “We’ve got to be ready.”
Yes. That will be the Sixers' next game, but you wonder who will be getting ready.