After the Process comes the Promise
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 7: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts to a play in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Boston Celtics during the 2018 NBA Playoffs on May 7, 2018 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
Joel Embiid was beside himself. He had just missed a potential game-tying basket before turning the ball over to the Boston Celtics with 10.8 seconds to go. The Philadelphia 76ers went on to lose Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, ending a season that brought back hope to The City of Brotherly Love. But, just as Embiid began to break down emotionally, Ben Simmons came up to him and showed him his hand.
“There’s going to be a lot of rings on this,” said Simmons.
In March last year, I wrote about how despite all the unfortunate injuries that prevented Philadelphia from taking off, they should stick to their guns and continue to “trust the process.” This was the first full season that the 76ers had a roster healthy enough to compete and get a preview of their potential. Finishing third in the East with a 52-30 record is without a doubt, a huge step forward, as the team won 24 more games than the previous year. This was also the first time since the 2000-01 NBA season that Philadelphia won more than 50 games. During that year, Allen Iverson led the 76ers to the best record in the East at 56-26. It’s been a long time coming, but the entire league has been put on notice – Philly is back.
Embiid is 24-years-old, while Simmons is only just 21. The 6’10” forward from Croatia, Dario Saric just turned 24 last month, while Robert Covington is 27. Markelle Fultz is the youngest player on the squad at 19 but he barely played, having dealt with scapular muscle imbalance on his right shoulder throughout the season. These players make up the youthful core of the 76ers that can grow together and one day become legitimate title contenders. Dwyane Wade has already called them, “the future of the NBA.”
It’s going to be a very interesting offseason for Bryan Colangelo, the team’s president of basketball operations. The first thing he should do is re-sign J.J Redick, who is coming off his best NBA season, averaging a career-best 17.1 PPG. He was also Philadelphia’s second leading scorer in the Playoffs (18.2 PPG) behind Embiid (21.4 PPG). During his exit interview, Redick called his stint with the 76ers the “favorite year of my career.” He may already be 33-years-old, but every championship team needs a shooter in the mold of a John Paxson, Steve Kerr or Mike Miller.
Now, Redick isn’t the only 33-year-old Philadelphia should consider signing up. The man they need to get them to the top is none other than LeBron James.
Since 2013, the 76ers have desperately been trying to put together a winning formula that could produce their first title since 1983. “The Process” is up and running. The “Fresh Prince” has arrived. All they need now to rule the NBA is “King James.”
Think about it. Depending on what happens in these Playoffs, should the Cleveland Cavaliers once again fail to win the championship, James will have to make the most important decision of his career. He is still trying to chase Michael Jordan and will need to join the right team that will help him become the greatest of all-time.
Simmons has shown that he is clearly a better point guard that Lonzo Ball, making the 76ers a more enticing option than the LA Lakers for James. The Houston Rockets are an intriguing option because of the star power on paper, but on the court, there wouldn’t be enough balls for James, Chris Paul and The Beard. And there’s no way James picks San Antonio. The Spurs are just too old.
Imagine this. Go back to that moment where Simmons shows his hand to Embiid. And then James comes over and puts one of his “I Promise” bands on Simmons' wrist. Putting rings on his fingers will be more than just a declaration. It would be destiny.
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