Jul 23, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie during a press conference at PCOM. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

#SevenCirclesofHinkie: Draft Night with the Fans


MY JOURNEY THROUGH THE #SEVENCIRCLESOFHINKIE

 

Regardless of how it went, NBA Draft night was going to provide Philadelphians with their first opportunity at raw emotion towards the 76ers since, well…probably last year’s draft. The organization had done nothing but preach patience for the event, a night which they held multiple lottery picks and an opportunity to shape the future of their franchise. Of course, considering the results of the lottery and the late injury news regarding potential top pick Joel Embiid, some of the anticipation had shifted towards anxiety. Anxiety that the forward-thinking 76ers would once again end up with player (s) not ready to make an impact on the court and put the memories of 2013-2014′s misery behind a surprisingly patient fanbase.

After weeks of being tormented by rumors on Twitter and convincing myself I knew what the franchise was going to do, I decided to enjoy Draft night in an entirely different way. The 76ers organization decided to sponsor 76 different draft parties around Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey. Rather than hearing what the ESPN broadcast thought of Philadelphia’s draft night strategy, I figured there to be a much easier way to get the raw, authentic reaction from the most important population. Thursday, June 26th; I would make it my goal to be at a different establishment for each of the 76ers seven picks (at the start of the night) to find out what people thought of the newest members of their beloved team. The results should come as little surprise, but that did not make the night any less entertaining. Fortunately for me, those who I interacted with were more than cooperative and spared no pleasantries when it came to the reactions to the team’s picks. Without further ado, my draft night journey.

FIRST STOP: CHICKIE’S & PETE’S-BROAD STREET, PHILADELPHIA, PA (3RD OVERALL PICK)  

I arrived at Chickie’s and Pete’s just before 7PM, thinking the draft started at the top of the hour. Probably should have looked into that a bit more. With the Cavaliers going on the clock at 7:30, I was forced to sit and ‘enjoy’ my first of what had to have been at least eight diet cokes over the course of the evening at the bar. Fortunately, I was able to interact with a few of South Philly’s finest and gauge what they wanted the team to do with the pick. After it became evident that the team was not going to be able to acquire the 1st overall pick, most of whom I talked with either was so enthralled by Joel Embiid’s highlight tape that they were willing to overlook his injury, or in denial that Jabari Parker was as much a member of the Milwaukee Bucks before the evening started as he was when they announced his name at the podium. Sure enough, Andrew Wiggins went off the board first overall. Though there was still the possibility that the team was going to be able to move whomever they selected at three for the player the team seemingly had pegged since before the start of last season, it became fairly clear that wasn’t going to happen. Some people at C’s & P’s actually were happy, as they figured the Cavaliers would mess this selection up. I was not in this contingency.

This did not keep my spirits down for long. My biggest fear was that the 76ers were going to trade out of the 3rd overall slot and miss out on a chance at one of the three potential franchise players in the class. Even with Embiid’s injuries as a concnern, the Kansas center was my favorite player (when healthy) of the lot. Realizing that no player in the class could turn the 76ers into a playoff team, I was ok with them taking the same approach with Embiid as they did with Nerlens Noel. I avoided the rumors on Twitter and decided, just for this pick, to gauge my own response before anyone else’s. The results? You be the judge.

After my own reaction selfie, I was still able to get the tail-end of the Chickie’s and Pete’s response. Outside of the late ‘boo’ after seeing the tape-delayed Embiid reaction, people seemed pretty happy about it.

Of the four people I was able to talk to personally about the pick, three of them decided instead to talk to me about what Hakeem Olajuwon was like when he was young. The fourth actually seemed pretty knowledgable about his hoops and agreed with me that Embiid was the superior talent in the draft, despite the injuries. Two of them mentioned his ability to ‘run like a gazelle’, and no one seemed to upset about the 76ers not getting Wiggins. I did not have much time beyond that to gather more intel, as it was off to stop number two for the team’s second lottery pick.

SECOND STOP: XFINITY LIVE, PHILADELPHIA, PA (10TH OVERALL)

 

Xfinity Live was the only location I attended that was not a team-sponsored draft party site. That said, I knew it was a prime source for raw Philadelphia reactions, and it was the only place close enough to Chickie’s and Pete’s for me to ensure I would see the 10th pick.  Upon my arrival, people were still discussing the Embiid selection. The lubricated Broad Street crowd seemed split over complaining about the Phillies and complaining about wasting money on season tickets. The 76ers aren’t stupid, and realize that it is a tough sell to get people to try and attend a good amount of games with seemingly no hope at winning for the second straight year. People weren’t necessarily upset about the pick, however. By this point, Embiid’s actual reaction to being selected had come through. I would say the crowd here was noticeably more knowledgable about the draft class and seemed optimistic about Embiid being a potential franchise player. I would note that the Xfinity Live bathroom attendant was particularly upset about the pick and the bad luck the 76ers had received as far as their lottery slotting and injured top pick.  As the team’s second lottery pick moved closer, most of the people around me had almost reluctantly reserved their preference to Doug McDermott. Especially with Noah Vonleh off the board and Nik Stauskas going 8th overall, most of the people around me didn’t really see a logical alternative. Then Sam Hinkie went all ‘Rainman’ on all of us and the reaction to the selection was almost as priceless as the half-hearted reception Michael Carter-Williams gave his new, albeit temporary teammate.     

There were those that really liked Alfred Payton as a player and figured he was an improvement over MCW. Most of the crowd, however, saw the sorry face on Carter-Williams and figured the team was about to trade their defending rookie of the year. Riddled amongst a flurry of curse words, the general narrative was ‘I’m never watching this team again if they trade him’. Unfortunately, I was unable to stick around long enough to see their minds put at ease over how things transpired from there. Though I am sure it was equally entertaining. Instead, I hopped on the Broad Street Line at AT & T station and headed to my next locale.

THIRD STOP: FOX & THE HOUND, PHILADELPHIA, PA (SARIC TRADE ANNOUNCEMENT)  

I had seen rumblings of the potential trade of Payton as I got closer to my third stop. As my phone’s battery dipped into the red (20%) mark, I arrived at the Fox & the Hound just off Broad Street. A smaller locale than the first two, the draft buzz had started to shift more towards post-work get-togethers. There were an alarming number of people more engaged in the Phillies game (ha!) than what was going on in the draft. Almost seconds after I arrived at the location, Andy Katz hit the ESPN floor to announce the details of the trade that would land Dario Saric with the 76ers and have the team get the first round pick they lost in the Bynum deal in exchange for Payton.  Those who were still paying attention to the draft mostly threw their arms up in disgust.  

(Priceless reaction from guy putting hands on his head). They all somehow knew that Saric would not be in the U.S. for at least two years, but literally had no idea of what type of skillset the Croatian forward brought to the table. Unfortunately, a few ethnic slurs were tossed around in response to the pick, but that is a topic for a different day. I was happy enough to be sitting next to a very knowledgeable fan from N.C. State who applauded the acquisition of Saric moments after T.J. Warren landed in Phoenix with the Suns.  On a side note, what a moment between Adam Silver, Isaiah Austin, and the NBA community. The NBA commissioner has had so much to deal with over his brief tenure, yet seemed almost 100% devoted to making the night of the unfortunate Baylor star. Austin’s genuine, emotional response had me take a second and forget all the pettiness of getting worked up over a draft or sports in general. Special moment for the league and whoever was lucky enough to be watching.  Considering it was quite some time before the team started their run of 2nd round picks, I decided to fuel up. I ordered a very tasty buffalo chicken sandwich with some fries and enjoyed the draft while peeking in a few times on the Phillies. The bartender continued to question my choice of diet coke as a beverage, but I reassured her it was for business purposes and I still left a tip that might be more indicative of a beer-guzzling patron. With my stomach full and my phone battery basically dead, I had to double back to my car and take the rest of my journey to different pockets of the Delaware valley. 

FOURTH STOP: DUFFER’S PUB, CONCORDVILLE, PA (32ND OVERALL PICK)

With the Phillies playing a 14-inning affair, I was lucky enough to beat any traffic heading back down I-95 South. Though it was my initial intention to head straight to West Chester to hit the pocket of watering holes holding draft-related events, I was in danger of missing the 32nd selection. Because of this, I made a brief pit stop in my own stomping grounds as I rolled up to Duffer’s Pub.

Maybe a mile from my own house, Duffer’s held a special place of post adolescent memories gained and lost to this occasional patron. This was a stop on a mission, however. There would be no libations enjoyed or debauchery to take place. Instead, another Diet Coke and a seat amongst several quizzo participants as the first round wrapped up just upon my arrival.

I was pleased with the remaining names on the board for what was essentially a first round pick. When the 76ers pulled the trigger on K.J. McDaniels, I was elated to say the least.

 

I watched as much Clemson hoops as any non-Tiger fan, as it was often broadcast on the network I used to work for. Aside from maybe Wiggins, I struggle to peg a more impressive wing defender with the ability to block shots, rebound, and get into transition fast than McDaniels. Though he is shorter and less well-rounded offensively than Wiggins, I feel like the 76ers got a major steal here.

As far as the response from the fans…no one at Duffer’s seemed to give a hoot. This was probably due to the fact that the announcement of the pick coincided with the results of the Quizzo winners. I was able to say hello to a few high school friends I hadn’t seen since my days at Garnet Valley. As I exited the establishment, I had to be the wet blanket to move a couple making out against my car to a different pocket of the parking lot. I called it a ‘million to one shot’ as I laughed off the tonsil-hockey participants. With the second round picks flying off the board, I had to make haste to stop number five.

FIFTH STOP: P.J. WELIHAN’S, WEST CHESTER, PA (39TH OVERALL)

 

I arrived at P.J.’s as the Knicks were selecting Cleanthony Early, one of my favorite picks in the draft. This was the only bartender who took some issue with me just ordering a Diet Coke. I sprung for an order of fries for the gentleman next to me who appeared to have spent 12 of the soon-to-be 14-inning Phillies game in the same barstool.

When the Jerami Grant pick was announced, I really started to scratch my head as to when the team was going to take a shooter. I held the door for a 1980′s hair-band front man wannabe who mumbled something upon exiting (hopefully to a taxi), and I scratched my head as I quickly returned to my well-traveled Honda Civic to head further into West Chester.

SIXTH STOP: LANDMARK AMERICANA, WEST CHESTER, PA (47TH OVERALL)

 

At this point, it felt as if my hands were shaking from all the caffeine from the Diet Cokes. I also happened to be heading into a town, though less concentrated during the summer months, provided some memorable entertainment in my days. I had my ID swiped for the first time in what felt like three years as I hustled to try and catch the 76ers next pick.

Unlike most, I was relieved when it became clear that Russ Smith was selected only to be traded for Pierre Jackson. Smith was an exciting player in college, but I struggled to see how he would be making an impact for the 76ers. Jackson was a player I had kept tabs on a bit after the team traded him to the Pelicans last year after selecting him 42nd overall. His ability to score and the role he played on the Pelicans D-league team will be more valuable to the young 76ers than what Smith would have brought, in my opinion.

 

I was less than a mile from my seventh and final stop, it was time to bring things home strong with the team’s final two picks.

SEVENTH STOP: BARNABY’S, WEST CHESTER, PA (52ND & 54TH OVERALL)

 

The site of my five-year high school reunion would be my final on my NBA Draft quest. It was near midnight and, appropriately so, no one cared about the draft but me. I nestled into a barstool and ordered my final Diet Coke of the evening (on the house, NBD).

The Serbian flare of the final two picks, one of which would be traded, were the perfect Hinkie selections at this point. Vasilije Mici was a much more desirable point guard project than Smith, in my opinion. His apparent skill passing the ball and creativity in the offense should provide for a key bench fixture if he is able to develop as a professional.

Just after the Mici selection, Chase Utley’s 14th inning walkoff home run provided a punctuation mark to the evening. Mercifully, the team made its final (listed) pick which would end up being traded. This picture should tell you all you need to know.

 

All in all, an excellent time interacting with sports fans of all knowledge levels and dedication. The NBA Draft is supposed to be fun, and this was a great way to spend it. Even though it feels as if I am just now finally flushed of all the diet coke from my system, the heart murmurs and shaking hands were worth it. Thanks to all who allowed me to interrupt their evening and apologies to anyone who I may have bothered.


Tags: Carter-Williams Embiid Featured Hinkie McDaniels Philadelphia 76ers Popular Saric