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The day the process died: Where do 76ers go from here?

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Roar Guru
18th May, 2023

14th May 2023, the day that Philadelphia buried their trusted “process”.

Writing this as a Sixers fan, I’m sure that you can guess that the headspace hasn’t been fantastic.

Watching a third-quarter capitulation to the arch-rival, the nemesis, the historic antagonist of Philadelphia sport, was never going to be anything other than excruciatingly harrowing.

Boston finished the job they started in 2018, when they beat the Sixers in five games, taking the soul of this team.

Fans and defenders have had ammunition to fall back on in the past, but there is no excuse this time. They lost. Badly.

That is what will remain when people sit around and refer to the ‘process’ 10 years from now. So, how did we get here? Was the path always destined to lead to this dead-end, or is there another universe out there where the Sixers stand triumphant instead of desolate?

The origins of the ‘process’ can differ depending on whether you start at Sam Hinkie’s (ex-general manager of the Sixers) hiring or his first actions.

On July 12th 2013, there was no arguing that the bold tanking ideology we know today had started, as Hinkie moved Jrue Holiday for more draft capital.


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During that year, Hinkie would proceed to dismantle the roster in the hopes of acquiring future assets. Hiring Brett Brown on 15th August further signalled Hinkie’s intent. During the introductory press conference, Hinkie said, “I was pretty candid with Brett throughout the process, about the challenges ahead. There has to be trust.”

We will return to these words of ‘process’ and ‘trust’ but here, the marshalling war cry of Philadelphia, “trust the process,” was officially born.

December 8th 2015 saw the Sixers hire Jerry Colangelo as chairman of basketball operations, much to the league’s delight as they sought to prevent Hinkie from exacting his multi-year game plan. It was the first mark of corruption in the sanguine system that Hinkie was building.

Colangelo would work behind Hinkie’s back to hire staff without his knowledge and shortly after Hinkie’s resignation (most likely forcibly so) on April 6th 2016, Colangelo hired his son to take over as GM. The nepotism shown here was an indicator of the type of personality that the Sixers had welcomed into the fold.

After using fake burner accounts on Twitter, with which Colangelo would criticise his players as well as Hinkie’s plan, and terrible draft and trade decisions, Colangelo resigned June 7th, 2018.


However, the damage had already been done. Colangelo’s mere presence in the organisation was a cancer that proved difficult to eradicate. By empowering the wrong individuals, the rest of the team suffered. The key moments requiring the right decision to be made was instead consistently met with an inability to do so.

The fiasco of signing Tobias Harris to a huge detrimental contract instead of Jimmy Butler, the abject failure of Ben Simmons and the tragedy of Markelle Fultz ultimately headline the consistent dilemmas that have faced this franchise.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 19: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans dribbles against Ben Simmons #10 of the Brooklyn Nets during the first half at Barclays Center on October 19, 2022 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Simmons was traded to Brooklyn in 2022 after a protracted holdout (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Yet, despite the successes of Hinkie’s ideology, it is not infallible. There is an argument to be made that consistent losing had affected the players involved and didn’t teach the true lessons of a loss, instead it became a mental crutch that allowed players to shake off this idea of accountability.

The trauma of losing in the first couple rounds of the playoffs, following years of a promised outcome, consistently stacked pressure on the fan-base’s psyche but also that of the players on the roster, developing into a fear of failure.

You only have to look to Doc Rivers quotes during this series against the Celtics as he talked about the “emotional terrorism” his team would have to overcome. Maybe this was always going to be the outcome when empowering a losing mindset that would “hopefully” result in a future win. The essence of Hinkie’s plan was trusting the draft; volatile be its nature as seven lottery picks later and Joel Embiid stands as the lone survivor.

The “process” was adopted by Embiid as he embodied the entirety of Hinkie’s plan. A dominant two-way force who could carry an asset-laden roster to a chip. In reality, this last series against Boston unveiled the truth behind the MVP’s identity. His regular season dominance comes at the cost of ever being healthy enough for two playoff rounds, let alone trying to make it out of the East.


The mantra of the franchise was, “Well as long as we can get a good supporting cast around Embiid then he’ll get us over the top.”

We’ve seen now that it’s anything but that. With the two great rosters in 2019 and 2023, the MVP buckled under the weight of the last decade’s expectation.

For years, fans defended Embiid, blaming the roster, the coaches and the unfortunate injuries. Yet, there’s one person who has escaped the wrath of Philadelphian judgement, Joel himself. The third quarter in the Game 7 loss to Boston is the epitome of Philadelphia’s process as well as Joel ‘The Process’ Embiid’s own game style: a strong first half is met by an underwhelming finish that hasn’t eventuated in success.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 28: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets battles with Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center on January 28, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Nikola Jokic battles with Joel Embiid. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

He is the “process” as the entire league knows. The distance he reached would be the measure of success for Hinkie’s decade-long plan, and that distance has looked to fall very short.

The Sixers, in their totality (front office down to fan-base), have struggled culturally with passing on the blame to someone else. Colangelo blamed Hinkie, the players blamed Colangelo and his toxicity, the fan-base blames the players’ inability to succeed.

Ultimately, the blame runs out at a certain point and all that is left is the realisation that you were never good enough to make it.You didn’t compete and fight at the highest level, and now the curtain has been pulled back at last. To an extent, this could comfort Philly fans. There’s no more lies that we tell ourselves to maintain the hope of an improbable dream.


Whilst losing to the Celtics in any manner is tough for Sixers fans, it is fitting that we have been conclusively exposed by Boston. For years, they have chipped away at the veneer of the Sixers image. Removing the Sixers from the playoffs in three of the last six post-seasons, finessing them in the trade between the picks holding the rights to Markelle Fultz and Jayson Tatum, welcoming back a player in Al Horford who was signed just to try and beat them.

They have been present every step of the way, watching us progress and monitoring the moment to break the hearts of Philly fans. That they did with the Game 7 loss coming in the most disturbing way possible.

Whilst we will have to wait and see if they can beat Miami, the Celtics seemed to sort out their own issues whilst simultaneously we truly realised our own. Tatum scored a record amount of points in Game 7, 51, ending as a 30- point blowout where they hunted our best defender (Embiid) to legitimately unmask all the fan-base’s fears. More precisely, maybe Embiid can’t get us over the top?

After a traumatic decade-long journey, we arrive at the feet of the carcass of the “process”. It told us to hope and to trust; one day all this losing will surmount to winning, but there were never the right steps implemented to win. In fact, there was never a culture instilled before the idea of winning was actualised upon.

The hunt for assets blinded the Sixers, eventually becoming the team’s identity. Just accumulate talent at all costs; evidently that doesn’t win anything.

Instead, Philadelphia remained in this space of looking ahead to the promise of what could be, not realising that the present was not good enough to attain any goal originally intended. That’s not a process at all!

Where was the clear definitive progression to be seen year upon year, showing that we were going the right direction? Ironic that this trust we were supposed to have wasn’t even manifested by the players themselves as Doc Rivers talked about how he didn’t believe that the team trusted each other or the game plan in Game 7.


No “process” to succeed and no ‘trust’ to rely on, led the Sixers to this cliff-edge. What comes now is the offspring of the “process”, as that period of expectation is non-existent to the fans, who battle with a crisis of faith after 10 years of their lives transpired to be fraudulent.

Looking back on this period, it becomes clear now that all cards have been played, that this was always going to be the scenario. The signs were there, every year. We didn’t want to or just physically couldn’t look at them, due to the pain that came from losing for so many years, only to get to this point. If there ever was a process, it was the process of losing rather than the opposite.