The Philadelphia 76ers, over the last several years, have been about as big of a joke as any pro sports team in America. Young, inexperienced, and largely untalented, NBA fans were left to scoff at a team that could barely scrape by with 10 wins every season.
It now appears those scoffs were premature.
Through all the dark clouds of those putrid seasons, we were left with a message, the contents of which were largely shrouded by the perennial follies of this storied franchise:
Trust the process.
These words had hardly left the Philly city limits up until this month, but now they’re reverberating in sports bars across the country, acting as a mantra for a once-broken team now in the fast lane to success.
Practically instantaneously, Philadelphia won ten of twelve in January to climb way, way out of the cellar of the Eastern Conference. They’ve done it with an impressive balance of talent, ranging in height, age, and skill set. Joel Embiid, the prized 2014 draft possession hampered by injuries, has not disappointed, as the athletic center just missed out on an All-Star spot in a breakout rookie season (he’s also magnificent on Twitter–throw him the follow). Robert Covington and Ersan Ilyasova start at forward, two versatile big men who are more than capable of pulling up and shooting. Behind Ilyasova on the depth chart is Nerlens Noel (former first-rounder) and Ben Simmons (the first overall pick from the 2016 draft.) If that’s not depth at the forward position, I really don’t know what is. At the guards, Philly was able to snag veteran Gerald Henderson, the long-time Bobcat/Hornet who averages 12 points a contest, when he’s not feeding those big dudes. At the other guard sits Sergio Rodriguez, the Spanish guard who puts in 6 assists a contest.
This team is built for grueling playoff series. If that starting five were to ever get tired, which is inevitable, the bench that exists might be one of the strongest in the league. Of course, that probably isn’t going to happen this season, but look at the ages of the stars!
Ben Simmons is 20. Jahlil Okafor (all trade talk aside) is 21. Joel Embiid is just 22. Nerlens Noel is also 22. Those are all first-round draft picks, all under the age of 23, all on the SAME TEAM.
Clearly, they’re a solid investment.
The Sixers are 19-34 heading into Saturday night’s tilt with the red-hot Miami Heat, which is hardly an impressive mark. However, take a moment and realize this–the Sixers are a full 11.5 games ahead of the last-place Brooklyn Nets. And if that’s not progress, I don’t know what is. The Sixers dug themselves out of that hole by playing together, with a team that could rival Cleveland and Toronto in a few years if they continue down this route.
We were told this process would take time. Is it almost “time” in Philly, a city searching for just its fourth pro sports championship since 1980? You’re damn right it is.