It’s painful for management, coaches, and fans to have to endure re-building phases. It’s an even bigger kick in the face when the young players you want to start fresh with are unable to play due to serious injuries. That has been the case for the Philadelphia 76ers since the conclusion of the 2012-2013 season, when the 76ers missed the playoffs, largely due to all-star center Andrew Bynum never suiting up that year and essentially ending his career due to knee injuries.
With Sam Hinkie as General Manager, the first re-building move was trading away all-star point guard Jrue Holiday for promising big man Nerlens Noel. When the trade was made, Noel was recovering from a torn ACL and would certainly not be able to immediately contribute. When the team appeared destined to head in the right direction with rookie guard Michael-Carter Williams, the 76ers elected to trade him for a future first round pick. In 2014, the 76ers selected Joel Embiid 3rd overall but a broken foot and 2 surgeries caused Embiid to miss 2 straight seasons. With both big men sidelined with injuries, the 76ers selected NCAA Champion Jahlil Okafor 3rd overall out of Duke. He had a solid rookie season averaging 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds en route to making the All-Rookie First Team. However, Okafor missed 29 games during the season due to suspensions from getting in street fights along with a season ending partially torn meniscus in his right knee. In the Summer of 2016 now under President Bryan Colangelo, the 76ers were fortunate enough to land the #1 overall pick and select promising Point Forward Ben Simmons. In September, Simmons rolled his ankle during a scrimmage and was ruled out for 3-4 months due to a fracture in his right foot. The following month, Noel was also ruled out for 3-5 weeks after underdoing left knee surgery due an inflamed plica.
It’s a straight up curse. Imagine having 4 very talented big man drafted only for all 4 to suffer injuries. It’s frustrating and you worry that players and/or prospects do not want to come to your franchise in the case of bad luck over the past few years. Fans were shaking their heads in disbelief and even opposing franchises began to feel sorry for the 76ers. Then hope was raised in what seemed like an Inspiring Movie or Sports Commercial. Videos surfaced on social media of Joel Embiid’s off-season workouts. The 7’0 Center from Cameroon looked NBA ready in terrific shape. The mobility was there, he was working on his post moves, and his strength showed why he was the Big-12 Defensive Player of the Year during his time at Kentucky. “TRUST THE PROCESS” has become his official slogan, urging fans that patience and frustration will pay off. He even jokingly tweeted it following the U.S. Presidential Election when players had mixed reactions over the results.
The 76ers are off to a 2-10 start. It isn’t playoff worthy nor is it even considered good, but it is certainly an improvement from the 0-18 start to begin last season. Jahlil Okafor continues to play limited minutes following his knee injury and primarily plays back-up Center. Joel Embiid has had a hot start to his first NBA season. He is currently averaging 17 points and 7.6 rebounds including a career high 25 point performance against Indiana last week and a beautiful chase down block on LeBron James earlier in the month (although replays showed it was obvious goaltending). Despite playing on limited minutes which is expected to increase, Embiid is on pace to win the 2017 Rookie of the Year. Nerlens Noel is scheduled to make his season debut very soon and has drawn interest from various teams around the league. With a crowded front court (assuming everyone is healthy), Colangelo may experiment various options to put the 76ers in a better position for the future. It is uncertain if fans will get to see Ben Simmons in action this season, who is being patient and is in absolutely no rush. Simmons has not only been praised for his versatile style of play, his character has received positive feedback from other players including Superstar LeBron James (a player who he has unfairly drawn comparisons to).
“The Process” has been a long one for the 76ers but once everyone is healthy and ready to play, the team should be in a great position for the future. Catch the young guns in action tonight when they host the Phoenix Suns, live at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.