Let’s go back in Philadelphia 76ers history for a moment. Back before Doc Rivers inexplicably left Joel Embiid in late in an already-over Raptors game. Before Ben Simmons passed instead of dunking. Before Kawhi stole Philadelphia’s soul en route to a ring. Before the Colangelos, the Moreys, the Brands. Let’s go back to the beginning of The Process.
Now, Sixers loyal likely recall those early days. Everyone bemoaned Hinkie’s plan to tank it ’til we make it. It was ruining the game. It ran afoul of the spirit of the game.
Flash forward to 2022 and suddenly tanking is back in vogue. Just ask NBA Insider Kevin O’Connor, who described the Utah Jazz’s recent teardown as a “glorious tank.” Elsewhere, the Thunder and Spurs are ready-set to lose a metric ton of games this season, with the latter trotting out a roster that would likely make Hinkie blush.
“Glorious tank”? Really? Sure Victor Wenbanyama is an expected generational talent, but then so was Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, and the countless other “can’t miss” talents the Sixers routinely lost games for during the 2010s.
And rather than remark on what a “glorious rebuild” the Sixers mustered, the league instead sicced Bryan Colangelo on Philadelphia in order to bring back a veneer of respectability to the team.
And lest you think the Sixers diehards had forgotten the shellacking their team took during those early days, think again. Many took to Twitter to blast the perceived double standard.
If nothing else, Sixers fans have a long memory. And working thumbs.
The Double Standard Has a Long History
The fallout from the Jazz teardown was hardly the first time another team is lauded despite the Sixers’ constant vitriol.
Back in January 2015, the Knicks were a measly 5-35 with a lineup that was purposely devoid of superstar Carmelo Anthony. The team was in full tank mode, looking to improve its draft position to bring in one of the promising young stars in the summer draft.
And the team was heralded for it, too.
“It’s very easy to look at this team now,” CBS Sports’ Matt Moore wrote at the time, “having obviously given up on the season and openly tanking with a team full of D-League caliber players (and that’s not a bad thing) and say that they’re doing the right thing.”
Yes, Phil Jackson’s stellar career earned him some equity in the league prior to this tank job. But the fact remains that both the Sixers and Knicks worked out a very similar strategy with very different responses.
Where Is the Process Today?
In a curious twist, September 3, 2022 marks the eight-year anniversary of a milestone in Sixers social media. Because back in 2014, the Sixers’ Instagram page posted a photograph of its then-Big Three.
“Sixers posted this on Instagram eight years ago today,” NBA insider Jason Dumas tweeted on September 3.
The photograph features a trio that never truly took off in Philadelphia. Nerlens Noel, Michael Carter-Williams, and Joel Embiid. Of the three, Embiid is the only one still on the Sixers, while Noel and Carter-Williams have bounced around the league. It’s a far cry from the Embiid, James Harden, and Tyrese Maxey tandem expected to light up the floor this season.
It’s also a telling reminder of where this team has been and the various shapes it has taken over the last decade. There are many paths to the mountaintop, but almost none of them are a straight shot.