It all came together last night. “The Process”, the losses, the heartbreak and the uncertainty that has burdened the Sixers and their fanbase for the last few years were washed from our memories as the results of the suffering made themselves very clear. This is the gritty underdog team, loaded with potential that fans dreamed of seeing once more in their lifetime..and that the NBA was so afraid of. The team may have fallen short of the mark on opening night, losing by just six points in what was a highly competitive game, but a new era has started..and a surge of electricity is now flowing through the city.
It’s been a long road to travel down, reaching this point. Without counting the current roster, a total of 52 players have sported a Sixers jersey throughout their 199 “process” losses..and only 11 are still playing in the NBA. The drafting of Joel Embiid was thought to save the franchise, only to prolong the process further as an unexpected injury forced the big man to watch from the sidelines as team lost over and over..fading like the stars who used to play before him.
Then came Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel and of course Ben Simmons. But thunder struck twice and Simmons is set to miss the opening months of his NBA career..only this time, the Sixers are in a much better place.
When Joel Embiid stepped onto the court for the first time last night, he was greeted with a sea of chants. For the first time since The Process revealed itself, fans felt that something special was about to happen. Embiid’s debut was exhilarating to watch. With just over 8 minutes left in the first, Embiid recorded his first career basket and earned a shattering cheer from the crowd. There was nothing to wish for or dream about anymore..just something to believe in.
Embiid went on to score 20 points, including a three-pointer and some clutch shots late in the game, much to the delight of the Philly faithful. “MVP” and “Trust The Process” chants echoed around the Wells Fargo Center, as a flood of cheers occurred every time the big man stepped back onto the floor for another shift.
But Embiid wasn’t the only bright spot. The nine assists of Sergio Rodriguez, the seven rebounds from Dario Saric..something happened that night and it wasn’t solely down to Joel Embiid..the Sixers found their soul again.
No longer were fans leaving at halftime, or seats left empty. The constant losing took a drain on the Sixers. The players, the fans and the coaching staff. But a new era blew the winds of change around the city..and a new hope beckoned. You could feel it in every block, hear it in every bucket and see it in the albeit sometimes overzealous crowd reactions..(we love you really Westbrook flip guy).
This is a team with an identity. A team with hope. A team with something to believe in. The players aren’t preparing to learn how not to lose anymore and the fans aren’t readying themselves for a year of hardship. This is a gritty, aggressive, passionate and hungry young team that showed they weren’t afraid of a team who were just one game shy of an NBA finals. This is the future.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports