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The Joel Embiid Aftermath and How to Feel about the Sixers

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Sixers Big Man Hurt, again. And again.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Joel Embiid will have another surgery on the navicular bone of his right foot and miss a second consecutive season. The Sixers have confirmed this. You are processing it. Before we go further, I recommend to you the following articles, because their contents are important to understanding and contextualizing the whole situation, and because I will attempt to avoid their well-trodden territory.

Our friend Derek Bodner, for PhillyMag, reinforced his support for the Embiid pick. At Philly.com, Mike Sielski got into the personal elements of what this means for Joel himself. For CBS Sports, Matt Moore straddled the fence on what this means for the Sixers going forward (with a Brandon Davies reference!). And Seth Partnow, at Hardwood Paroxysm, wondered if, in light of the Sacramento pick swaps and despite Joel's injury, Hinkie might secretly flip the switch this season. Those are all highly well-written, contemplative and considered pieces, and they deserve your attention.

But seeing as we're all narcissists, let's make this about us.

***

Familiar. That's how it felt when news was relayed to us that some doctors looked at Joel Embiid's CT scan and frowned. Almost one year after making the ultimate risk/reward pick with the third selection at the 2014 NBA Draft, we were treated to more bad news, and more waiting. You either condemn the Sixers for taking him or you don't. Fine. But either way, everybody's rightfully devastated.

It's not an issue of patience. Nerlens Noel dropped to #6 in 2013 and kicked off the Sixers rebuild in earnest, and we were happy to wait a year for the ACL to heal. Dario Saric signed a contract to remain in the Turkish League before the Sixers drafted him, and we were willing to sit tight until he can be bought out after two years. The Sixers traded Michael Carter-Williams because he wasn't good enough to turn down that Lakers pick. They've eschewed free agency altogether since Sam Hinkie was hired. 37 total wins in two seasons made 600+ people show up to a Buffalo Wild Wings on a Tuesday night in Northeast Philadelphia to watch envelopes.

So no, we Sixers fans are not an impatient people. We got patience coming out our asses. But when the Injured Big Man Still Injured story gets rammed into our gut once again, it's enough to question -- not The Process, but something else:

WHY THE HELL DOES THIS KEEP HAPPENING GODDAMMIT?

***

August, 2012. I was buying groceries. Sam Hinkie was nothing but a twinkle in my eye (read: working for the Rockets). There has been a four-team trade. Andre Iguodala, Nikola Vucevic, Moe Harkless, and picks were out. Andrew Bynum was in. A superstar, a superstar, thank god almighty, a superstar at last.

Eight months later:

It wasn't supposed to go this way. This trade was the right trade. When you make the right trade, you should be rewarded. It wasn't a needless gamble. It wasn't a short-sighted ploy for attention and gimmicky seats filled. This was The Move. It finally happened to us. They did it. We did it. We've arrived.

Instead, we had one of the least efficient offenses in basketball. The fewest made free throws in the league. Almost 30 minutes a night of Spencer Hawes post-mullet. A franchise in absolute shambles.

The updates were the worst part. Consult the above column for all the blessed memories because I can't bring myself to lay them out again. Andrew Bynum's zero minutes played tenure in Philadelphia took more years off my life than I care to admit. The mere utterance of "Bynum" sends chills down my spine and all the way into my knees, lubed as ever, and still further down to my feet, which are, naturally, flamenco dancing.

And even though I still support the Bynum trade in theory -- DEAR GOD LET US NOT GET INTO IT HERE -- there's no doubt that the wreckage from its failure did leave the franchise in shambles. So many shambles, that shambles had actually lost their meaning. Shambles.

We could only take solace in three things: One, based on the Bynum risk, the owners seemed to be willing to roll the many-faced dice for the idea of a franchise player. Two, the all-or-nothing thought process of the trade left the team with no choice but to bottom out. And three: it could not possibly get any worse. Right?

***

Thankfully, unlike Igor pointing out the lack of rain, the Sixers' future looks brighter now than any other time in modern memory. Youth with upside, picks aplenty, a development program that has tangible successes, stashed players for trading or eventual Americanizing, cap flexibility, a tremendous internet presence. Your belief in The Process (TM) varies based on how much you enjoy frenetic 60-loss seasons and JaKarr Sampson Point Guard Experiments, but there's no sane person -- save Howard Eskin -- I said sane -- who are you talking to -- that can look at what the Sixers future was in 2013 and say things haven't gotten much, much sunnier since.

Those precious assets can only do so much when the rightful heir to the throne continues to sit with a dead foot. And if that foot remains dead, there's no telling how many lottery parties we'll need to throw before the Sixers acquire a tall, healthy man to save us from despair, or worse, mediocrity.

***

The answer isn't an actual number of years (but 2016's four first rounders + Saric's emigration to Philadelphia + the Great Cap Space Expansion might ballpark it) or a tall healthy man at all, but a board of figures in the Sixers front office. It's not LeBron James on the side of a building -- though I would pay good money to get Josh Harris to do that exact pose and slap it somewhere on I-95 -- but it's what we've got.

Call it culty, call it boring, but Sixers fans' #Trust in the #Process was never specifically about Embiid. Sam Hinkie and co. do not put all their eggs in one basket, so neither should we. If Embiid's Sixers career mirrors Bynum's when all is said and done, then that blows. That's a disaster for him, and certainly a massive bummer for the organization and for us, but that doesn't change anything. The plan is still in place.

Jahlil Okafor is here. Nerlens Noel is here. Nik Stauskas is here. Pick Swaps are starting at point guard. If perennially hurt Sixers stay perennially hurt, they'll roll with it. There are contingency plans for the contingency plans, as long as we have the patience. Embiid's situation is familiar, but those Sixers are not these Sixers. And knowing that, we can keep breathing, hope for the best with Joel's foot, and look stubbornly towards that horizon.