While I was scrolling through my social media feed, I saw that the Sixers unveiled brand new City Edition uniforms for the 2020-21 NBA season. This is the first time the Sixers will be sporting black since the Iverson/Iguodala days. I gotta say it induced a little bit of nostalgia for me. That was my childhood, spending many of nights neglecting my homework to watch AI feed it out to Kyle Korver who would hit a three from another zip code. Good times.
With the unveiling of these new jerseys, which pay homage to Boathouse Row and sneak in a little “TTP” on the front, it got me thinking about The Process and all who have come and gone because of it. The question remains seven years later. Should I trust the Process?
How It Started
The year is 2013 and former Sixers GM Sam Hinkie is a fresh face in the City of Brotherly Love. In a press conference welcoming his arrival in Philly, Hinkie explains that the Sixers are focusing on the establishment of a new process, one to help revitalize a franchise that hadn’t been a relevant contender since the days of Iverson. It was clear a rebuild was necessary. It was impossible not to scroll through social media and see hashtags toting the phrase “In Hinkie We Trust’’ for a while. One of Hinkie’s first moves as GM; bringing in head coach Brett Brown. “Trust the Process” soon became the mantra of an entire city ready for the return of competitive basketball.
Process: Phase One
Michael Carter-Williams, Jahlil Okafor, Tony Wroten, Ish Smith and Isaiah Canaan. These are a few of the names of those who laid the foundation of The Process. You may not know who they are, but if you are an avid Sixers fan, you should welcome these men with open arms. Their failures were a catalyst for the culture shock in Philly, and for that you should be grateful. The 76ers finished just one game shy of tying the NBA record for most losses in a single season in 2015. That record was also set by the Sixers in the 1972-73 campaign. By finishing with only 10 wins, they gave Sixers fans hope that it could only get better from here.
Embiid and Simmons
The Sixers selected Joel Embiid with the third overall pick of the 2014 NBA draft. The Kansas standout was the lone glimmer of hope on a deteriorating team, despite his first two seasons being plagued by injuries. The Sixers drafted LSU star Ben Simmons first overall in 2016. Unfortunately, an ankle injury sidelined Simmons for what would be his rookie year. It was just another obstacle on the road to success for The Process.
The Sixers were getting exponentially better in the face of adversity, however. Following the ghastly 10 win season, GM Sam Hinkie resigned. I guess the Philly faithful could no longer trust him. The Sixers were gifted a top 5 draft pick in each draft in the span of four seasons. The Jahlil Okafor and Markelle Fultz picks didn’t pan out, obviously. But they were hopeful Simmons and Embiid can be their Jordan and Pippen to help bring a chip to Philly. Give these stars a supporting cast worth and you could have quite the Eastern contender on your hands. With Robert Covington, Dario Saric and T.J. McConnell by Embiid & Simmons’ side, the 76ers did just that.
Process: Phase Two
The 2017-2018 season was the best season of the Process to date. The new look Sixers finished 52-30 and were in the running to bring Philly its second championship that season (the Eagles beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl that year). Bringing in veteran sharpshooter JJ Redick was a phenomenal move. With Dario Saric and Robert Covington also helping steer the ship, the Sixers had a young, hungry team. Unfortunately, their run was cut short when they lost in the Conference Semifinals to the Celtics, 4-1.
Process: Phase Three
The 2018-19 season saw the Sixers finish 51-31. In November of 2018, the team made some major moves, trading Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless and a 2022 second round pick for Jimmy Butler & Justin Patton. There were concerns about Butler in the locker room, but Butler is merely misunderstood.
They acquired Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic & Mike Scott just before the trade deadline, in exchange for Landry Shamet, Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala. The Sixers were full steam ahead in their quest to complete the Process. They also dealt Markelle Fultz to the Magic for Jonathan Simmons, showing they were heading into the final stretch. Then, in a heartbreaking Game 7 loss to the Raptors in the Conference Semifinals, Kawhi Leonard would sink a buzzer-beater sending the Sixers packing yet again.
The Sixers could not get over the hump for two consecutive seasons. Not making it past the Conference Semis and the decisions being made in the front office were beginning to have its effect in the locker room.
We still don’t know the exact details of Jimmy Butler’s departure from the Sixers. However, in an interview on JJ Redick’s podcast, Butler expressed how discrepancies over Brett Brown’s coaching methods, a lack of team chemistry, and a conversation about whether or not he could be controlled ultimately helped his final decision. “On any given day, me as a person and as a player, I didn’t know who the [expletive] was in charge. I think that was my biggest thing. I didn’t know what the [expletive] to expect whenever I would go into the gym, whenever I go into the plane, whenever I got into the game,” Butler explained to Redick. Butler turned down a five year, $190 million dollar contract for a four year $142 million dollar contract with the Heat, a move that has obviously made Butler very happy.
Process: Phase Four
The 2019-2020 season was very unconventional. COVID-19 put the league on hold well over halfway through the season and it wasn’t until late July when basketball was back on our television screens. The Sixers were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Celtics, in an embarrassing showing. What started out as a promising season only turned into another stain on the Process’ resume.
Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems
The Sixers now have an almost 300 million dollar dilemma on their hands. Following last season, Tobias Harris signed a five year $180 million dollar deal and Al Horford inked a four year $109 million dollar contract ($97 million guaranteed). Both deals are just eating away at the available cap space for the Sixers.
It is clear that Al Horford and Joel Embiid have very little chemistry on the court. Most Sixers fans acknowledge that they would ship off Horford for the right player. Horford shot a career worst 45% this season and Tobias Harris also underperformed for someone who is getting paid $33 million a season. The Sixers passed on Jayson Tatum in 2017 draft, a move panned by Sixers fans. Tatum is now playing MVP caliber basketball, well on his way to becoming a star in the league. The Sixers, on the other hand, continue to try and get their bearings in Philly. Jimmy Butler is playing some of the best basketball of his career down in South Beach with a team that was only two games shy of winning an NBA title.
The Process Continued
So back to the Process. You might’ve heard “Trust The Process” here and there as it has now transcended Philly basketball and has become almost a motto for people to live by. If you’re waiting for that girl you met at the bar last night to hit you up, your friend might’ve told you to “Trust The Process.” If you’re trying to get your life together one may encourage you by saying to “Trust the Process.” I don’t how many times I heard John King on CNN say during the election to “Trust The Process.” Should I really trust the process, though? It is now going on seven years since the initial process began. Three GMs later and still no closer to winning the big one.
The media has repeatedly tried to split Ben and Joel up, creating absurd potential trade rumors to try and convince fans that there is a power struggle between the two. One day Simmons needs to go because Kendall Jenner disrupted his jumper, the next Joel needs to go because he hasn’t played a single healthy season. Other days they both are on the move because they apparently have beef. It’s absolutely absurd. Face it, Simmons and Embiid are Philly basketball. Just like the Birds are set on Carson Wentz amidst this whole Wentz or Foles debacle, GM Elton Brand is set on Ben and Joel.
How It’s Going
With a brand new head coach in Doc Rivers and with Daryl Morey serving as the new president of basketball operations, there is still hope to complete the Process within the coming years. A new coach, some new faces in the front office (ones who won’t use fake social media accounts to bash their own team like you, Mr. Colangelo), and some new threads will certainly raise fans’ spirits. There is hope for a championship parade if Joel Embiid can step up to the mic and say what many have been waiting to hear for years, “Process Complete.” Now if they could only bring back Hip Hop.
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