It’s hard to put a period on the run-on sentence that is ‘The Process.’ For a lot of us, we didn’t survive the process, it wasn’t some gauntlet of ten-day contracts and twenty-point losses. We didn’t crawl through a metaphoric sewer Andy Dufresne-style only to come out clean on the other side. We embraced The Process.
We became experts in the draft, scouring YouTube to find the best second round value picks, and form unassailable positions on who we had to take. We became amateur GMs, adept at discussing bird rights and pick swaps. We added names like ChuChu Maduabum and Furkan Aldemir to the corner of our brains reserved for The Process, permanently indexed, always ready to prove our bonafides through our roster-knowledge. We found glory in a Tony Wroten game-winner, solace in an update on Dario, and fueled our righteous indignation with every episode of The Rights to Ricky Sanchez. This is what people from outside failed to understand. We didn’t live through The Process, we lived for it. Which begs the question, what now?
The Sixers are unquestionably good. They’re fourth in the East. They have just one loss at home since December. They won their last three games by an average of 15.3 points. They’ve got the fourth ranked defense in the NBA. In 2018 they’ve got the same winning percentage as the Warriors (.694) and the 4th best point differential in the league behind only Houston, Toronto and Utah. Dario Saric, J.J. Redick and Robert Covington are all shooting over 40% from three since the All-Star break. And Joel Embiid is in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year and easily one of the top ten or twelve players in the league. They’re poised to get home-court advantage, to play second round spoiler, to push a series to an unlikely seven, to unleash a torrent of ‘I told you so’s’ and to force the Colin Cowherds of the world to shove their giant foot even further into their oversized mouths. And yet, as Trusters of the Process, we’re unsure how to feel.
If you agree that the goal of The Process was not to win a championship, but to increase the probability of acquiring the kind of talent required to win a championship, than you also probably agree that The Process, at least as we knew it, is over. Joel Embiid is a generational talent. So is Ben Simmons. Regardless of what happens with Fultz, we’ve got the kind of foundation you can build something special on. We did what Hinkie set out to do. We’re no longer a team chasing probabilities, we’re a team of possibilities. A team that breaks off six game win streaks like a kid breaks off fun-sized Kit-Kats the day after Halloween. A team that’s coached up and plays downhill. A team that makes up for a lack of depth with an abundance of heart. A team that you don’t want to draw in the first round, or second round, or any round. A team that’s no longer loved only by a misfit band of basketball nerds obsessed enough to find fun and fandom in obscure corners of the game, but appreciated by anyone who enjoys the NBA.
So where does that leave us, the adherents of Hinkie-ism, the canonists of Covington, the apostles of Embiid? Where does that leave the weirdos who know Ben Simmons deserves to be Rookie of the Year, but want him to lose because we think it will inspire him to be truly great? The Brett Brown believers who tirelessly defend him against the slings and arrows of lesser fans. Those that always new Dario was coming over. We never embraced a losing culture despite what people said, but what do we do now that we’re expected to win? What do we do now that our corner is crowded with new fans and fair-weather fans and fans who told us we were wrong but have yet to acknowledge we were right?
We abandon our resentments, those nagging yet unavoidable feelings of annoyance, like when your favorite band blows up or your local suddenly has a line. We let go of the blissful certainty of losing and accept the terrifying what-if of winning. We allow ourselves to detach from how we got here so we can take a step back and appreciate where we are. We take a breath and enjoy the moment, enjoy the best season we’ve had in a decade, enjoy a trip to the Playoffs where anything can happen, and sometimes does. Because if the Process has taught us anything, it’s that whether your winning or losing in life, nothing lasts forever.
The Process might be over, but long live The Process.