In Malcolm Gladwell’s 2005 book, Blink, he tells the story of the Getty kouros, a statue brought to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Southern California. Before the purchase of the statue (said to be going for around $10 million), Thomas Hoving, a former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, blessed the statue with his presence. Hoving was known for jotting down the first word that came to his mind whenever he saw something he had never seen prior. On this day, he wrote down the word, “fresh.” As he put it, “fresh is not the right reaction to have to a 2,000-year-old statue.”
Gladwell’s book talks about the mind’s immediate reactions and split-scond decisions. It talks about how those reactions and decisions are often more reasonable than well-thought-out ones.
The most surprising thing to me about the Jrue Holiday trade, which was executed on draft night, is that nearly every Sixers fan or journalist — whose opinion I respect — was the same in terms of this trade (once the details were cleared up). All of our initial reactions were is that the trade was “necessary.” And it was.
Rumors were swirling around on the days leading up to Thursday’s NBA Draft that the 76ers’ often quiet President of Basketball Operations was going to make a splash. Reports were leaked that Philadelphia’s camp was in talks with basically everybody who possessed a top-10 selection, and that every player on the Sixers roster was available for the right price (Sixers fans told themselves Holiday wasn’t one of those guys; Sam Hinkie showed us otherwise).
When the Miami Heat won the NBA Finals less than two weeks ago, LeBron James talked about how you need a little bit of luck on your side to win a championship. LeBron seemed to be speaking specifically of on-the-court instances, centering in on the Game 6 finish. But really, you need some luck in everything your organization does leading up to that moment, be it injury-related, chemistry-related, how draft picks develop or whatever.
The Sixers got their first lucky break on Thursday night when Nerlens Noel wasn’t picked in the top five. They received their second lucky break when a sixth team, the team which drafted Nerlens, didn’t desire his services either.
It was at that moment that Sam Hinkie didn’t just make a splash, it was more like Kevin James‘ cliff jump in Grown Ups 2. And perhaps the second-most interesting thing about the trade is the 76ers gave up a true franchise point guard, an All-Star, for a player and a draft pick, both of which no one knows what they’ll turn into. Seemingly almost everyone thinks the Sixers won the trade, but did they?
So far, all we really know is that Sam Hinkie has zero attachment to Philadelphia’s previous regime. His willingness to deal Jrue shows that the reports were correct: absolutely everyone on the roster is available for the right price, and that he is especially looking for draft picks and/or expiring contracts. He has demonstrated what everyone knows, but few execute properly. In most circumstances, for a mediocre team to get better, first they need to get worse. Hinkie understands that, and based on their reactions, Sixers fans do as well. Personally, I couldn’t be more proud of fellow Sixers fans and even bloggers. Giving up Jrue Holiday was an absolute punch in the stomach, but it seems “necessary.” Everyone with any attachment to the franchise understands that. Often Philadelphia fans get a bad rep because of their sometimes irrational actions. But the truth is we just sincerely care about our teams, and the reaction by our fans to this deal speaks volumes.
On the contrary, the team gave up a 23-year-old All-Star point guard — who is far away from his peak — for a top-five protected first-round draft pick in next year’s (supposedly loaded) draft. Also, for the fourth time in less than a decade, the team acquired a big man with highly documented knee problems. Thus far in those acquisitions, the Sixers are 0-for-3. The only difference in this instance is that Noel’s career has yet to begin where as two of the previous three were passed their prime and the other, well, we all know all too well how that turned out.
So here we are again. It all seems oh too familiar. Another promising big man with knee problems, expected to make his team debut in September. I’ve seen a handful of fans throw in their cards as well, mainly because of this particular dÃ©jÃ vu, and rightfully so. This necessary patience is unprecedented, especially for the modern era Philadelphia 76ers fan.
The organization acquired Dr. J in 1976. In 1982, it was Moses Malone. Two years later, the team drafted Charles Barkley. Fans had Sir Charles to root for until he was traded prior to the 1992-93 season. Only two years after that, they were able to draft Jerry Stackhouse, and then a year later, Allen Iverson. Even if the team wasn’t winning championships (which they haven’t since 1983), the organization has at least put something out there worth watching, worth the price of admission… until Allen Iverson was dealt in December of 2006.
Fans knew Andre Iguodala wasn’t the answer (no pun intended), though some pretended he was. Andre had his moments: the game-winner against Orlando in the first round of the 2009 Playoffs, the two clutch free throws versus Chicago in Game 6 two years ago. But he was never going to be the organization’s next superstar, so they dealt him. They dealt him and two promising young players for a center who never put on a Sixer uniform. And the fans, being wise as they are, still accept it because it was a risk the team had to take. And so here we are.
Seven years after dealing the team’s last franchise player, Hinkie has dealt the closest resemblance Sixers fans have had to one since. And if you’re unsure the risk he has taken, consider this: of the seven or so under-25 franchise point guards in the NBA, none of the other’s respective teams would have made the exact trade Sam Hinkie made Thursday night. You can bet on it. For Kyrie Irving, not a chance (the Cavaliers could have drafted Noel). For Russell Westbrook or Derrick Rose, keep dreaming. Same goes for Damian Lillard, Stephen Curry, John Wall and Ricky Rubio. This tells us one of two things, either that Jrue Holiday isn’t in the same category as those other point guards (I’ve watched nearly every one of his games and he certainly is) or that the state of the Sixers is such that the only way to fix it is the same way a kid fixes a Lego set that didn’t turn out right. You break it all down, remove all of the pieces and start over.
So here we are: a potential franchise center coming off ACL surgery, a point guard who five years from now we could all say was the best from this draft class (I, for one, think we will), tradable assets and two (probably lottery) draft picks in next year’s (supposedly-loaded) draft.
For a 2,000-year-old statue, perhaps this wasn’t the right term you’d want to come to mind. For the Philadelphia 76ers, though, it’s the exact start they need to this new era of basketball, and it’s the exact word that comes to mind when thinking about it. Fresh.
Was trading an All-Star point guard a good or a bad move by Philly?
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