There is no more grating fan base than the clinging coterie of Sam Hinkie True Believers.
Tuesday, of course, is the NBA lottery pull. The Sixers, through all of Hinkie’s machinations over the last three years, have about a 27 percent chance of getting the top pick. They also will get the Lakers pick if it falls out of the top three. It could be a franchise-altering night.
I disliked Hinkie’s three-season Tank-a-thon, considering it an affront to paying fans, as well as plain old ethics. I was glad when the NBA stepped in this season and ordered ownership to stop making a mockery of a once-proud franchise. I shed no tears reading Sam’s meandering resignation manifesto.
So now, with Hinkie gone, I’ve pulled my 13-star Sixers hat from the closet. Along with thousands of likeminded fans, I feel safe returning to the team I rooted for from Julius Erving through Charles Barkley and Allen Iverson. Except, we are being told, we are not allowed back.
“Don't think we won’t call your ass out when you jump on the bandwagon,” a Hinkie backer Tweeted me Sunday after I posted excitement about the lottery. He wasn't the only one. The old GM may be gone, but his loyalists still think they have a proprietary right to dismiss the non-believers.
Sorry, guys. It’s not your team. It’s ours – as in all fans.
Hey, I’ll agree with the obvious – that 10-72 put the Sixers in this prime draft position. Hinkie succeeded in his mission of creating the losingest NBA team in 43 years. That doesn’t mean the greater universe of fans has to retroactively support the immorality of that – even if the payoff for ineptitude is about to arrive in early draft picks.
It also doesn’t mean that any fan has priority status if and when the Sixers return to decency or – dare we hope – greatness. We can all find it fun to cheer for our team again – unless some diehards’ vision of the future remains a near-empty building occupied only by card-carrying members of the now-defunct Tanking Brigade.
So as the lottery approaches, I’m excited. There’s some fatalistic fear that through luck or a rigged system, the Lakers will emerge with the top prize. I’d love to dismiss that suspicion, but I can’t. And there’s legitimate debate about whom the 76ers should grab if they do garner the No. 1 pick: Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram? And where does a shooter like Buddy Hield fit in?
So much rests on unanswered questions. Will Joel Embiid be able to play? Will Dario Saric really come over? I don’t know, but I am sure of this: It’s safe to start enjoying the Sixers again. For me and for thousands of other conscientious objectors.
The door has re-opened, everyone. We’ve got a basketball team again.