It's day 10 of the 2014 NBA Summer League. I awoke at the crack of dawn for an early morning flight from Philadelphia to Orlando way back on July 5. My nap during the trip to Disney World feels like a lifetime ago.
My mind has grown numb. I've survived too many enthusiastic scrambles for loose balls fluttering under baskets. I've asked the question, "who's that guy?" about far too many Summer League players. A bubbling pain has surfaced at the intersection of my neck and shoulders from hunching over my laptop for hours on end.
I'm writing this as the Sixers trail the Phoenix Suns in their final Summer League battle before the Vegas playoffs begin. Currently, Jordan McRae is head coach Chad Iske's best player on the floor. He catches the ball on the right wing, dribbles to his left once, hesitates to freeze a defender and the bowls into the lane before flinging up an off-balance, right-handed runner. It clangs off the back rim, hits Phoenix's Elias Harris in the hands and bounces out of bounds.
On the other end, Miles Plumlee, who by all means is an NBA starting center, looks like Marc Gasol as he bangs against Jamelle Hagins in the post. He scores 9 first quarter points, mostly after backing a Sixers big man all the way under the rim and finishing with ease right at the cup. With Nerlens Noel and KJ McDaniels resting, the only reason I haven't fallen asleep is Seth Curry's tantalizing attempt to burst out of his brother and father's shadows.
"I can't wait for the regular season," I found myself saying to a fellow writer on press row. That's a complete 180 I've made from Draft night when the thought of the Sixers' two lottery picks both not playing in Philly during the 2014-15 season became a reality. But a long weekend of watching Scottie Wilbekin's perfectly sculpted eyebrows and Drew Gordon lumber up and down the Cox Pavilion court has me pining for October 31. Even though the Sixers will likely be the worst team in the NBA next season, watching Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams run the pick-and-roll like they did back in high school will be fun. Seeing McRae and McDaniels come play fourth-fiddle instead of Robin to Casper Ware's Batman will be intriguing as well.
Then again, it's still going to be a struggle to find moral victories in ever Jerami Grant made three-pointer. Despite being on-board with Sam Hinkie's rebuild, the daily trauma is fully real. All we have to cling on to is the hope that this vision of competing for a championship three or four years down the road comes to fruition.
But, that hope isn't blind. Believing in The Process is pragmatic more than it is foolish. You see it watching Noel sky for block after block. If healthy, Joel Embiid will be the perfect partner to help him protect the paint. Yesterday, McDaniels, who was drafted at No. 32, completely locked down Andrew Wiggins, taken No. 1 overall if you don't remember.
So, there will be moments like today when the future seems too distant. Tony Wroten will be back in our lives soon and you may be able to get a legitimate Sixers championship tattoo on your ass in a few years. Just remember to stay calm and relax. Try to avoid counting Adonis Thomas jumpers in your sleep.