Shipwreck of the Sixers and countdown for Embiid and Simmons

On the verge of being eliminated in the first round, the Sixers are about to complete a disastrous campaign. Furthermore, they have almost no room to change course.


Philadelphia 76ers. One of the institutions with the most history, tradition and (at least until this new era) pride of American basketball. One that was born in 1949, in Syracuse, where four years later he was already battling with the Celtics in the playoffs. A wild rivalry on the East Coast, a heritage that passes from father to son throughout the sport of two sports cities, Philadelphia and Boston, and that only asked for time out in the 80s to share contempt for the Lakers and give birth to the 'beat THE'. Those were years when Julius Erving and Larry Bird hooked their necks and the playoffs were fights for attrition, until there was only one foot left. In the last three years, the game has been repeated twice in the playoffs, with less apparatus than the NBA would have liked: 4-1 for Celtics rocked by injuries in the second round of 2018 and, for now, 3 -0 in 2020 for the greens, who have been able to keep their program in a constant equation on which they are trying to blows, some with more luck than others. But always on a sustained and legitimizing line, the safety net that the Sixers completely lack.

That is why the Celtics support their project, beyond some saw teeth that are actually inevitable. And they have performed at a very high level despite the fact that the year was theoretically twisted by the exits of Kyrie Irving and Al Horford and the failure of the Anthony Davis plan. And that's why the Sixers are heading for disaster despite the fact that those escapes in Boston and Kawhi Leonard's in Toronto made them, on the starting grid, the theoretical great alternative to the Bucks in the East. But no, the Sixers, in another year of comings and goings with injuries, were a disappointment until the March break and have not taken the second chance that the bubble gave them, theoretically ideal (what was there to lose?) For a A team with more talent than inertia and incapable of competing at home on the hot slopes. Even that took the current format away from them. But barring an unforeseen miracle, the Sixers won't even be able to hold on to the Garden's weight to justify what is about to turn into an utterly disappointing season. And with consequences that are already knocking at the door. Screaming.

Not showing right now, except for unexpected resurrection, way to imagine Brett Brown on the bench when next season begins. On board since 2013, navigating the waters of a controversial and radical reconstruction (the Process, now I'll go with it) will leave him with a Pyrrhic 36% of victories in almost 500 regular season games, but it has also given him carte blanche for years: the present was not to be judged. When it comes time to do so, Brown has shown no ability to move the team forward. To make it better than the (strange) sum of its parts. And since the Ben Simmons-Joel Embiid couple has not been coached by anyone else in the NBA, presumably the first step, to be tested, will be to change coaches. Later, if everything continues in the current inertia, much more tricky debates would follow.

A disaster that points to dispatches

Before the superstars fall, so should Elton Brand, who has not been able to convert the Process (the future) into substance (the present). It is not easy, but in his must it remains that it gives the feeling, uncomfortable, that the team would be better if Brand had simply crossed his arms and started to whistle with his feet on his desk. Most of his decisions have been wrong, a matter that points to him but also to those who believe (it is an addictive drug) that the practice always scrupulously follows theory in all reconstruction and future plans. If so, there would be 28 NBA champions each year (all but the Knicks and Kings, who are not there) .

The Sixers were hurt by Ben Simmons' injury. Decisive. But not even Gordon Hayward's (although it doesn't have the same proportional weight) gave them a push. Brown has not been able to make his team try to take advantage of its theoretical advantages over the Celtics, which they should have, although he did try (something is something) to change (with some success) a defense of the pick and roll that in the first two games it had been dismembered by Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum. Brown (and the comparison with Stevens is obnoxious) does not have a hard-working, intelligent or quick-reflex team. Nor does it have, coaches do not perform miracles, players who make shots from outside or who understand when and where to pass the ball (IQ). The Sixers' attack is atrocious, more without Simmons and more so in times when everything is generated by fast and dynamic guards in quintets full of shooters.

The Sixers live off Joel Embiid, who has averaged 30 points and 13 rebounds in three games. And that he has been all star for the last three years. The critics should not touch him much, beyond the fact that the league is not designed, in these times, to win games sweating in the post; and that he does not finish breaking as a passer, has dropped this season in defense and has moments in which it shows too much that he is fed up with everything that surrounds him. That said, he will obviously be the last in line of reproaches. Rather, he has positioned himself on the side of those affected by Elton Brand: JJ Redick and Jimmy Butler seemed ideal players to train with him on the court and Dario Saric and Justin Anderson were personal friends who made his life easier. He himself recognized as "frustrating" the movements of the team. Embiid, time passes for everything and everyone, he is 26 years old and ends his contract in 2023. That, in the dynamics of the current NBA, guarantees rumors and uncomfortable comments if things have not been fixed, or aim to do so, in the closing of the next season.

There was a lot of talk when landing in the bubble of a Simmons more power forward (more point forward), but the injuries have not let us see if there was finally a fit in the playoffs for two players who saturate the area and whose board is still without surround by shooters. The Sixers have had to rely on Alec Burks and Neto as engines of an infamous bench, bad thing. And they have seen how Tobias Harris has averaged 14.7 points in three games with 33% shooting from the field. And Al Horford 5.3 points and 6.7 rebounds with 40%. Neither man has hit a single triple in twelve quarters and with Embiid hitting the zones. In the third game, Harris only hit a basket outside the zone. He came under suspicion for his poor performance in the series against the Raptors in the previous playoffs. He is 28 years old and last summer he signed what was the largest contract in the history of the franchise: 180 million for five years. In the 20023-24 season he will earn almost 41 million. Al Horford is 34 years old and signed for four and almost 100 million, also in a disastrous Elton Brand last summer. In the 2022-23 academic year, he will earn more than 26 million ... at the age of 37.

Brand wanted to win now. Plausible. But it has failed. And it has squandered the booty of picks, salary margins and promises of the future that, more or less like the ways (to me, nothing) the Process amassed. A format right now mortally wounded and that will end, if the course is not straightened, officially as soon as Embiid or Simmons leave. It is the following debate, still less than a step (and after those of Brown and Brand, where there will be guillotines) of being totally real but much closer than a year ago to running over this team. Time flies. And Hinkie's tricks can end in bluffing. It's like poker: if after five minutes you don't know who the cousin is, then the cousin is you.A completely wasted capital

The Sixers, except miracle (I insist) right now totally improbable, are going to start the countdown of the Embiid / Simmons project. That will force you to make decisions and they may be correct ... or they may not. We have seen many teams act out of anxiety and moved by rush, from puddle to puddle and from one madness to another. The basic reality is that this season's Sixers have been worse than last, many millions of dollars later. And that they cannot break a ceiling that is increasingly glass without a point guard or a top-notch forward in scoring and outside threat. The rest are unreal accounts. The third star was not Fultz and it is not going to be Tobias Harris: it was Jimmy Butler, but he left for the Miami Heat after an obvious disagreement with a team obsessed with weight in the zones and with defensive power forwards (Zhaire Smith, Matisse Thybulle…) .

The Sixers have been shedding Jerami Grant, Dario Saric, Robert Covington, Nerlens Noel ... and a bag of draft resources. Better players than those they now have for a very short rotation and a squad that concentrates all its investment on the nobility: there is no room for anything else. The Sam Hinkie Process was basically an industrialized tanking designed for years to come, a decapitalization plan to amass future assets that had gloomy moments in sports between 2013 and 2017 and that sold a bright future (from the well to the top without spending by the middle class) that amassed believers, many outside of Philadelphia: The franchise fell to 28th (out of 30) in attendance at its pavilion. But, alas, the future ...

The NBA doesn't like tanking. Above all, he does not like to be talked about. And that instead of disguising it be named and merchandising invoiced at its expense. The Process ended up being an issue that troubled other franchises and the league itself, prompting the Sixers to try to control Hinkie. The theoretically very respectable Jerry Colangelo put himself above the mad scientist, with the right to veto any decision made by him. It was December 2015: in April 2016 Hinkie had already left. The Sixers got down to business: the outgoing architect could be criticized, but there was no denying that he had left a bag of possibilities on the table for Colangelo, who hired his son Bryan. This one was more like the Raptors gone wrong than the Suns Executive of the Year (three decades ago). Bad decisions and a scandal (silly, but scandal) over secret Twitter accounts in which he or his wife (depending on which version is created) put players in stock and revealed state secrets of the franchise, brought down a regime that never had expected respectability and facilitated Brand's arrival (September 2018). He accepted part of the previous team, a slab rejected by other applicants who had been tested, from David Griffin and Mike Zarren (one of the brains of the Celtics) to Daryl Morey himself.

The Sixers live, that's the harsh reality, of the ghosts of the Process and the illusion impulse (it's running out) of the summer of 2016, when Ben Simmons was drafted with the number 1 and the debut of Joel Embiid (number 3 in 2014). A year after choosing the Cameroonian, they chose another center with pick 3, Jahlil Okafor; A year earlier they had spent number 6 (after an operation with the Pelicans in which they released Jrue Holiday) on another, Nerlens Noel. Three centers in a row in an NBA that runs away from them. In that summer of 2016, the Sixers, looking for veteran ground, signed Gerald Henderson (a hip injury martyred him later), Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodríguez. In February 2017 Noel left for two second rounds, an Andrew Bogut who was cut and Justin Anderson, who would later be traded. Okafor came out months later alongside Stauskas and a second round, all in exchange for Trevor Booker. Those were the Sixers' operations with two draft top-6s.

In 2018 they looked at the Jimmy Butler option, when the forward sought his departure from Minnesota with a daily sainete. They gave Jerryd Bayless, a second round, and two valuable players: Saric and Covington. You can not criticize this operation, but Butler only played one year in Philly and left within the dismemberment of the team that had lost in the second round of the East, on the horn of the seventh game and against the future champion, Toronto Raptors.

In February 2019, within that shapeless reshuffle, Markelle Fultz was traded to the Orlando Magic by Jonathon Simmons, a first round (one of the remaining assets is a Thunder pick) and a second. Fultz, who was prevented by a rare shoulder injury from even a chance at Philadelphia, was No. 1 in the 2017 draft. A bad bet ... and especially painful. The Sixers were primed in search of that one, which was from the Celtics: they gave two first rounds, one of them his in that 2017, the 3 with which the Celtics took Jayson Tatum, and a star and a hammer that He's pulverizing them (the things of life) in these playoffs. More wood? Yes: the all in that motivated the bet on Tobias Harris sent the Clippers to Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala, two first rounds, two second rounds and a future shooter like Landry Shamet. A very high cost for, yes, to go all out with the Simmons-Redick-Butler-Harris-Embiid quintet. Then came the elimination and a free agency in which Redick signed with the Pelicans and Butler left for Miami. And the hires came to Harris and Horford. And the rest: disaster ... except miracle. Nobody has come back from 3-0, only three times have they forced a seventh game from there and no team has done it since the Blazers in 2003. They played for Oregon's Arvydas Sabonis and Scottie Pippen. It has rained.

When the Celtics deliver the final blow to these 2019-20 Sixers, it will almost certainly end the Brett Brown era and open up a future that right now causes apprehension. The Harris and Horford contracts are nearly impossible to move. He is almost out of respect for the dynamics of the NBA, where anything is possible, and because you can always talk… if you add layers to the cake with which you go door to door. But the Sixers, from bad operation to bad operation, have run out of what was not so long ago a bag of picks, assets and possibilities with which to go to the market. The future is unforgiving ... and it comes very quickly. The pressure, from now on, will increase if things are not straightened out. And the pressure, as 2021 advances, will point directly, when the rest of the pieces of the board fall, to the Simmons-Embiid couple. To the last trace of the Process.

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