Revel in this, Sam Hinkie fans. Bask in the moment, Process believers.
Suddenly, the Sixers have become the best show in town. After a 7-24 start, the sad-sack franchise has gone 10-5 in a drive toward respectability. Coach Brett Brown finally has the lads closing out wins. Joel Embiid, our city’s most exciting addition since Roy Halladay, even dared to use the word “playoffs.”
That’s a longshot this season. But their improvement is palpable. And their games have gone from being a $2 bargain on StubHub to must-see events. Ninety percent of this is about Embiid, who (knock on wood) is destined to become one of the NBA’s top five players. Still, the team has also won a few recent contests without Embiid, getting hero turns from the likes of T.J. McConnell and Richaun Holmes.
Hinkie’s Heroes see this as affirmation that their fallen leader is a vindicated martyr. And that’s their right. Hinkie’s plan was to be awful for as long as it took to accumulate superstars. Embiid gives them one now. There’s hope Ben Simmons can be the second.
As a fervent critic of The Process, it would be disingenuous for me to deny that. Anyone with eyes can see that the Sixers are nicely set up for the future, with more lottery picks coming. Hinkie deserves a good deal of credit for that.
But I’ll fall short of getting #TTP tattooed on my belly. Just as there are some in the anti-Hinkie camp who now blindly refuse to face facts (I heard someone the other day claim that Bryan Colangelo’s move for Ersan Ilysasova was the real difference maker), there are Hinkie-ites taking a premature victory lap.
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The rationale behind three seasons of tankathon was to stop being that franchise that regularly goes to the playoffs, just to get eliminated in the first round. A noble goal for sure, but one that remains far in the distance. The Sixers are out of the ditch now and picking up speed. But they’re still on training wheels.
Was Hinkie a genius? I don’t think so. By not signing a point guard one season and rotating through dozens of “gypsy players,” as Brett Brown called them, Hinkie showed guts more than brains. His plan was to deliberately lose for as long as it took, even as external pressure kept building to pull the plug.
So give him credit for brass balls. And, while I still can’t figure why he drafted both Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor, give him credit for foresight in taking Embiid and Dario Saric.
Eat crow? Maybe a wing’s worth. I’ll never apologize for refusing to root for my team to lose. I still cannot abide charging patrons full fare and deliberately putting out an inferior product year after year. Yes, my problem may be mostly with the NBA’s inane structure, but I still consider long-term tanking a sports crime.
Hinkie fans never minded that. That’s their prerogative. And this is a time for them to enjoy.