The Mythology of the Process is on Life Support
Updated: Jan 21
It feels like a lifetime ago that Sixers players and fans were told - or perhaps begged - to “Trust the Process.” Just think of all the names that have come and gone from the Philadelphia locker room in that time:
Nerlens Noel. Michael Carter-Williams. Dario Saric. Jahlil Okafor. Nik Stauskas. Markelle Fultz. Jimmy Butler. (And, of course, Sam Hinkie.)
Many, many transactions later, and this summer it briefly felt as if The Process had been fully vindicated. The 76ers went on a spending spree this summer, and with a core of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, and Al Horford, were poised to make a real run at the Larry OB.
A few months later, and it’s not just this season that hangs in the balance. It’s the whole damn Process.
It was simple
The Process was an attempt to secure elite talent, no easy feat in the NBA. It required painstaking discipline and faith to do what the Sixers did. Use the league’s own incentive structure to sift out a championship team.
It was a total capitulation of the responsibility the team had to its fans. To its players. To its peers in the Association. All for a shot at a title.
Philadelphia laughed in the face of the NBA gods.
Then why did it go wrong?
Was The Process morally ambiguous? Absolutely. But whether or not these precious seeds would bear fruit was still to be determined.
Yet the Sixers once again taunted basketball fate. As The Process was poised to perhaps come to fruition, the team’s front office used years of asset building and cap hoarding to field a roster where the puzzle pieces don’t fit. Not in the least.
Now, the ghost of Sam Hinkie is still haunting the Sixers, who are at a dangerous inflection point. Shortly after declaring himself the “best player in the world,” Joel Embiid and Co. were absolutely embarrassed in primetime by the Bucks, with Milwaukee’s social media team spitting on the corpse.
The writing on the wall doesn’t look good for the Sixers. Al Horford and his tired knees are frustrated on the bench. Ben Simmons may be missing extended time due to injury. And Joel Embiid still can’t seem to find a consistent rhythm.
Philly is 9-20 on the road, a worse mark even than the lowly Knicks. They’re just 21st in the Association in offensive rating, and have a negative net rating in the fourth quarter. A deep postseason run is still possible, but the team has more questions than answers.
Sixers head coach Brett Brown will be the obvious fall guy this summer. Perhaps Elton Brand too will be axed, though both men have years remaining on their contracts. Whispers that the team could trade Ben Simmons, or even Joel Embiid, have grown louder in recent weeks.
There are plenty of scenarios where the 76ers prove themselves true title contenders down the stretch. And a new head coach or point guard could do wonders for the team.
The often injured Joel Embiid turns 26 this year, however. If he is indeed the crown jewel of The Process, the clock is already running out on this dubious chapter of NBA history. And should this era come and go, the mythology surrounding The Process will need to go with it.