By Spike Eskin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – At Friday’s Sixers press conference, no one was discussing the biggest move the Sixers made on Thursday, because it’s not yet official. But it’s fair to say everyone was thinking about it.
The trade that brought the Sixers Nerlens Noel and a first round pick in exchange for All-Star guard Jrue Holiday won’t be made official until July. So Michael Carter Williams, and Arsalan Kazemi the two newest additions to the Sixers roster, and their fearless leader, general manager Sam Hinkie, met with the media on Friday to talk about everything else.
“I think this is an exciting day for us, for our future. The role that I’ve taken and the role of our front office is to bring in talent. And I think both of these guys represent a real influx of talent. The type of talent I think we can grow with,” Hinkie said.
The first round pick, Carter Williams, is a point guard out of Syracuse, taken with the 11th pick in Thursday night’s draft. Hinkie says they wanted him all along.
LISTEN: KYW’s Matt Leon interviews Michael Carter Williams:
“I was on the phone with teams all ahead of us, trying to find out if he would slip to us,” he said. “Would could we offer? What would they accept to get him?”
Carter Williams will likely replace Jrue Holiday, who had the best season of his career in 2012-13. It will bring expecations.
“I think there’s a little bit of pressure there, but I’m used to having some pressure,” he said. “Sometimes with basketball, pressure comes with it. So I’m excited for it. Right now I don’t really have an individual expectations. We’re going to have a new coach and a new system. So I’m just looking to learn right now and lead our team.”
Carter Williams is known to have good court vision, and a very good defender. The one part of his game that needs work is his jump shot.
“I did a lot of work in the preseason, before the draft,” Carter Williams said. “I did shooting every day. I fixed a few things with my mechanics. I worked on my dribbling, things that every layer does to keep everything tight.”
“He’s competitive and he wants to win, and he’ll work at his craft,” Hinkie said of his new point guard. “And that he shot it well in high school, which we checked. He has the other elements, that he can’t get in time. His first step, he can get anywhere he wants. The things that he needs to improve on, is the thing you can improve on by spending alone in a room like this. Alone in the summer.”
“He has a lot to work on,” Hinkie told 94WIP’s Anthony Gargano and Rob Ellis. “All of our players do.”
The second round brought a lot of position for the Sixers, drafting and trading around to get exactly what they wanted, at the spot they wanted. It ended up being Arsalan Kazemi with the 54th overall pick.
Kazemi played at the Univeristy Of Oregon, and is known as a strong rebounder at both sides of the floor.
“Arsalan is a player we were interested, even early in the second round,” Hinkie said. “We always moved with one goal. We were never not going to have a pick in the second round. We were never going to put ourselves in a position to not take Arsalan.”
Kazemi is the first Iranian born player to play in the NBA, a fact not lost on him.
“It means a lot to me, it means a lot to my country,” he said. “They’ve been up all night watching the draft to see if I get drafted. It kind of feels like we kept the dream alive for a lot of kids back home.”
“Both of them are the kind of players we want to have in Philadelphia,” Hinkie said. “The only way we can build something we can all be proud of is to build a pipeline of young, competitive, serious, hard working players.”
Perhaps ‘analytics’ has been a word that’s overused when speaking about Hinkie, but he said it did play a part in the players they selected in the draft.
“I think an important part for sure. It will be component to everything we do,” Hinkie said. “We want to use the best information we can, in any decision we can. Much of you’ve read about and seen, and much that you haven’t.”
Rumors circulated on Thursday that the Sixers have found their coach in Spurs assistant Brett Brown. Hinkie shot down those rumors.
“Still open minded. I’ll turn the page from the draft. I’ll turn my mind to that. there’s been a lot of that going on behind the scenes,” Hinkie told Gargano and Ellis. “We will finish the process when I’m sure I’ve got the right coach for our future. Now is an important time to refocus on that.”
What’s clear after Thursday night, is that Sam Hinkie has a plan. It involves youth, it involves assets, and it involves always being willing to make a move.
“The job is not to pick the best players in the past, but who the best players will be in the future. Those are often the same, but not always,” Hinkie said. It’s fair to say we’ll keep our eyes on the present and the future. I don’t think you’ll see us do a lot of quick fixes.”
“Everything in this business is a bit of a gamble,” Hinkie said to Gargano and Ellis. “You sort of have to make your peace with that. And say to yourself, which risks are you willing to take, and which are you willing to not.”
Hinkie took a risk and traded the Sixers best player. After that, it’s hard to imagine one he wouldn’t.