The date was May 26th, 2012 and the Philadelphia 76ers were poised for a monumental game seven with the Boston Celtics. After pulling off the unthinkable in the first-round, knocking off the #1 seed Chicago Bulls, this gutsy Sixers squad had somehow managed to take the Celtics to a full seven game series
The final game of the Eastern Conference Finals went less than ideal for Philly, as they managed to score just 75 total points. The young Sixers squad was absolutely dominated by Boston, as every single starter on the Celtics scored in double figures.
With the heartbreak of losing to a longtime rival deep in the playoffs, the Sixers’ front office felt prompted to make a pretty drastic change. On June 4th, 2012, the Sixers took part in a blockbuster four-team trade. The deal saw Andre Iguodala depart, while 24 year old All-Star Andrew Bynum would came in.
Building around a partnership of Jrue Holiday and Bynum, the 76ers organization felt they had pulled the right strings in setting up the team for years of Finals contention. While trading away a fan favorite like “Iggy” was met with some displeasure at first, fans around the city saw the long term vision that the Sixers were utilizing. Both Holiday and Bynum were coming off monster seasons in 2012, and the idea of pairing them together likely meant serious trouble for the rest of the NBA.
Sixers fans need little reminding when it comes to how this story ended.
Just a few days before training camp, reports began surfacing that Bynum’s knees were in seriously bad shape. The Sixers opted to hold him out of all team-related activities as the center underwent a variety of different treatments. Already dealing with arthritis in both of his knees, Bynum went on to further injure his right knee in a bizarre bowling related incident.
Despite continuing to tell fans and the media alike that he would be making his Sixers debut, Bynum never even logged a minute for Philadelphia. The 76ers let him walk in free agency the following year, and he went on to play one final lackluster season in Indiana/Cleveland before pseudo-returning.
Following the disaster that was the 2012-2013 season (the Sixers finished 34-48), the Philadelphia ownership decided it was time for a complete overhaul of who was making the decisions. The 76ers ended up with nothing valuable out of the Iguodala-Bynum trade, and it surely didn’t help that Iggy was playing extremely well in Denver at the time.
Enter Sam Hinkie. Tasked to completely “rebuild” the Philadelphia 76ers, the newly hired general manager had quite the plan in place. Focused on acquiring as many draft picks as humanly possible, Hinkie also hired Spurs assistant Brett Brown to become the team’s new head coach. Brown was hired to further Hinkie’s ultimate plan, operating primarily as a talent developer, as opposed to a typical “wins-oriented” coach.
Hinkie made waves across the league with his first move as GM, trading away the team’s lone bright spot in Jrue Holiday. Hinkie acquired Nerlens Noel and a first-round pick which he later used to draft “Rookie of the Year” winner Michael Carter-Williams.
Hinkie was routinely criticized by opposing GMs and national media members, accusing him of “tanking” and destroying the Sixers. Regardless, Philly fans bought into his idea of a better future. The slogan “Trust the Process” is still routinely heard at Sixers games today, and some of Hinkie’s decisions are even still aiding the team currently… (RUMOR: Overseas Sixers prospect nearing his NBA debut)
Ultimately, it’s hard not to look at the Andrew Bynum disaster trade as the launching point for “The Process”. If that had played out differently, it’s likely him and Holiday would have combined for a few solid years together. However, it’s also likely guys like Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid never would have landed in Philadelphia. So in a strange way, Sixers fans can thank Bynum and his degenerative knees for leading to the Sam Hinkie era of decisions.
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