Three years of maneuvering and endless losing led to this moment. The Sixers now own the top pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, free to select whoever they please. They have been freed from having to rely on the whims of other teams in front of them.
After endless debates about the importance of luck in what Sam Hinkie sought to accomplish, it's poetic that his tenure ended with the Sixers never moving a single slot up or down in the lottery. Finally the actual worst team in basketball instead of just a whipping boy for intellectual debates, they walk away with the No. 1 pick accordingly.
And so ends the influence of the team's previous GM on proceedings. The players, pieces and picks left standing are his legacy; a two-way force from Cameroon, a multi-dimensional forward from Croatia, a murderer in the post from Chicago, the potential crown jewel available with the first pick. Hinkie has no say in whether their presence in Philadelphia lasts a decade or another month, but they are here because of him.
Before launching into countless Ben Simmons vs. Brandon Ingram debates over the next few weeks, it is time to recognize lottery night for what it was -- the birth and death of two Sixers regimes.
Bryan Colangelo has done the press tour, he's made assurances to fans young and old, but now it's time to put up or shut up. Just as his predecessor was asked to manipulate his way out from under the rotting carcass left behind by Doug Collins, Colangelo will be tasked with launching the franchise into another stage of the rebuild. There are countless decisions to make and hurdles to clear before we reach draft night, let alone once the new GM ventures into free agency.
This is where it begins for Colangelo; now we evaluate rather than speculate. Be mad at the hiring process, be mad at the ousting of an intelligent guy from your favorite team's front office, but none of those things are going to change.
What changes is the opening question asked of the Jerry Colangelo, Bryan Colangelo and Josh Harris triumvirate, "What do we do with these assets?" vs. "How do we obtain assets at all?" I don't expect the grace period to last as long for a management team loaded with the No. 1 pick, several young, blue-chip talents and a bushel of future capital. The tasks of developing Joel Embiid, crushing the draft and making smart, calculated decisions in free agency are in a new set of hands.
Colangelo and Son have their opportunity, and we will be here to react.
"Rooting for laundry" has become a semi-dirty phrase in sports lexicon as we grow closer to the athletes and executives running the show. It's hard to blindly follow teams when we have so much insight into the depravities and infidelities of the people behind our favorite sports franchises.
I've spent a lot of the past month taking a blowtorch to the new regime and correcting inaccuracies with regards to the old one. The work has been received well by many, but fans of the team and this site aren't a singular blob. "Are you guys even Sixers fans?" is a refrain we've repeatedly faced here at LB and through social media channels.
The answer for me is simple -- of course! -- but paths taken by our writers and commenters are all different. New fans from all over the world aren't drawn to (and incessantly debating about) a team of this caliber because of civic pride or long-held attachment to the franchise. When I get to meet someone at the lottery party who came all the way from Australia to be part of the festivities, it's hard not to reflect on what this all means.
Hinkie's legacy may be defined by the status of Embiid's navicular bone, but it also lives on in those stories of long-distance travel, in watching former Eagle Ike Reese nearly launch off the top balcony at XFinity Live, trying to hug anything and anyone within arm's reach. Maybe a franchise isn't worth blindly rooting for, but sharing those moments and meeting people because of something as ultimately meaningless as a basketball team was cool beyond measure. Nobody can take those moments away, not Josh Harris, not the Colangelos, not anyone.
The return of that special combination of pride, defiance and community made the last three years fun in spite of the losing. Regardless of how things turn out and what management does with this golden opportunity, I will be here until those feelings disapate.
For sparking that, and for pointing the franchise in the right direction moving forward, an ageless toast comes to mind: