Patience Paying off for Process Trusters
If you've been down to 'The Center' for a Philadelphia 76ers game so far during the 2016-17 season - or even if you've been following from afar - you've undoubtedly felt an electricity surrounding the Sixers squad that has been largely absent over the past decade-plus.
The Sixers - spurred largely by the advanced and often-otherworldly play of rookie sensation Joel Embiid - are putting a product out on the hardwood that is not only very competitive - the team has won 6 of the last 7 games that Embiid has played in - but also extremely fun to watch; a status antithetical to the on-court product of the past several seasons.
Fans from across Philadelphia and beyond - many who had tuned the team out for years - have taken notice, and attendance for professional basketball is up in the city. The Philadelphia faithful are flocking to see the Sixers, and the rationale behind the mass migration to a team that was considered an afterthought in the city just a year ago is simple: the fans feel that in Embiid – and potentially Ben Simmons, who has yet to see the court - the team has legitimate piece(s) to build around that could actually deliver the game’s biggest prize somewhere down the line.
This feeling across the fan base is personified in the endearing ‘trust the process’ chants that ring out every time Embiid struts to the free throw line. These chants have even spread to rival cities, as Embiid’ infectious online persona and dominant demeanor on-court has started to win over fans across the league’s landscape.
These legitimate feelings of hope and excitement for the future based on the presence of the team’s own superstar(s) have not surrounding the Sixers since the days of Allen Iverson’s prime. (No, the 2012 Andre Iguodala-led iteration of the team didn’t inspire nearly the same kind of faith or frenzy, namely because the long-term ceiling of that unit was exponentially lower than that of the current crop.)
While Embiid's bold playoff proclamation – seemingly meant as much as a metaphor for the team's impending success as an actual prediction for this single season - may have been a tad premature, the team’s final standing on the season is far from the most important outcome of the current campaign in the long-run. In fact, the team would probably be better served with one more lottery landing, rather than a first-round showdown with the LeBron James-led Cavaliers as the eight seed in the East. Although, the experience there wouldn’t hurt the young Sixers either, as a playoff appearance would be a testament to work of the team’s young core.
That’s the thing, the Sixers are in a great position moving forward either way: a dominant two-way player to build around in Embiid, potentially another in Simmons, ample draft picks spread over the next several drafts, and abundant cap space; the exact formula for NBA success.
What we have seen over the course of the first half of the 2016-17 season is the metaphorical tip of the Sixers’ iceberg. Regardless of how the team finishes the season in regards to the final playoff picture, the main takeaway from this season is the fact that the franchise finally has authentic, young building blocks they can use to climb back to contention. There is legitimate hope – a rare and precious commodity in the Philadelphia sports landscape.
Many saw this coming, and are now finally beginning to reap the benefits of their patience and foresight. Each dominating performance from Embiid seems like a small wink to those that have ‘trusted the process’ since 2013. Now, their time is finally coming.
Because there's no barriers to entry on this thing called the ‘Embiid express,’ all are welcome, even those that publicly prodded and doubted ‘the process’ and its architect Sam Hinkie. Sure, they can cheer for Embiid now that his production is no longer a hypothetical, as there’s nothing wrong with supporting the city. But, the success that the Sixers are currently experiencing - and are poised to experience for the foreseeable future - will be that much sweeter for those who played it patient.