Somewhere, wherever he is, Sam Hinkie must be having the time of his life.
The former Philadelphia 76ers general manager who oversaw one of the most ambitious rebuilding projects in NBA history is seeing the fruits of his labor finally come to life. The Philadelphia 76ers, long mocked for intentionally taking up residence in the basement of the NBA, have become the toast of the league.
It didn’t come easy. Not one bit. The Sixers sucked for a long time and they sucked so bad that fan revolt, if it wasn’t brewing already, was definitely on the horizon. The team embraced failure in the short term even if that ideology ran counter to the culture of competitive sports. At the very least, it was a never-ending source of heartbreak, anger, confusion.
But Hinkie, who lost his job even before he could see his plan come to life, was undeterred. Say what you will about his methods, but the man had the foresight to understand that the Sixers, despite numerous playoff appearances at the start of the decade, were mired in a constant cycle of mediocrity. So he gutted the roster and, with absolutely no guarantees or assurances of success, he started The Process.
That was four years ago. Today, Hinkie is no longer with the Sixers, having ceded control to Jerry and Brian Colangelo in a saga that deserves its own episode of Conspiracy Theories. The Sixers still have a losing record of 18-31 and any hope of title contention is still a long ways away.
But make no mistake. This isn’t the Philadelphia 76ers that nauseated us into submission the past four seasons. This Sixers team is on the rise and as Hinkie had hoped for when he slammed that wrecking ball into the franchise four years ago, this Sixers team is the embodiment of the process finally coming to life.
Joel Embiid is at the heart of all this madness, as he should be. He was the third overall pick in 2015 and was immediately tabbed as Hinkie’s make-or-break pick. If he lived up to the hype and turned himself into this generation’s Hakeem Olajuwon, Hinkie would be validated. If he didn’t and he became known as the second-coming of Greg Oden, Hinkie would’ve been driven out of town by a mob of angry Philadelphians wielding modern-day equivalents of pitchforks. Pinkie was ran out of town regardless, only the suits over at the NBA did it. Again, a story for another time.
To his credit though, he was absolutely spot-on about Embiid. The 7’2” center missed the last two seasons because of injuries, but now that he’s healthy (relatively, at least), he’s not only turning in one of the most impressive first-year seasons in NBA history, he’s also become one of the most popular and charismatic players in the league today. He’s hilarious, confident, self-assured, and he’s proven to be not above giving himself his own nickname. Also, the young man who calls himself 'The Process' is a beast on the court and is the single biggest reason why the Sixers, despite sporting an 18-31 record, find themselves in the 4.5 games of the eight seed in the Eastern Conference. In the words of Kurt Angle, “Oh, it’s true. It’s damn true.”
That said, vestiges of Hinkie’s “process” remain. Despite Embiid’s season-long brilliance, he still has a minutes restriction looming over his head. He’s being intentionally held out in back-to-back games. The team, while resembling the city’s irrepressible image of toughness and perseverance, is still made up largely of fringe NBA players. And the other cornerstone of the franchise, Ben Simmons, has yet to play an NBA game.
The Sixers still have a long way to go before it can validate its departed general manager and yet, the team is on pace to win 30 games this season, more than the number of games it won in the past two seasons combined. The current cast of admirable journeymen will give way to better players down the road. Simmons is on his way to a full recovery. And most importantly, Embiid’s minutes cap will be lifted and barring injury (knock on wood, everybody!), he’s proving himself to be worthy of being this generation’s Dream.
In other words, the Philadelphia 76ers are on the rise and are poised to become serious contenders in the NBA. The road to get to this point wasn’t easy, but just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, the Sixers had to undergo years of infamy and despair before it found its legitimate place in the NBA again.
Yes, #TrustTheProcess is finally blooming and showing its teeth. And just the same, somewhere, wherever he is, Sam Hinkie must be having the time of his life.