By Ray Boyd
PHILADELPHIA, PA (CBS) — You’ve waited 25 years between championships from the Sixers in 1983-84 and the 2008 Phillies. You’ve waited through weeks of interviews to find out who would take over the head coaching job for the Eagles following the firing of Andy Reid. You’ve even displayed quite a bit of patience waiting for that firing to take place.
With all that said, Philadelphia sports fans have unwillingly had to display an ability to be patient and to wait. Now the Sixers have made it clear that they are going to push that level of patience to the brink, and Sixers fans will have to decide if they are going to come along for the ride.
Last night’s selections of Joel Embiid and Dario Saric in the NBA Draft, made it all too clear that the Sixers eyes are set on the future. Last season’s “tank fest,” was not the beginning of a one to two year rebuild. It was the first steps in a process that may take somewhere closer to three to five years to see fully blossom.
There were the whispers over the past few days about the Sixers somehow moving up in the draft to select Andrew Wiggins, who eventually went number one to Cleveland. Those wishes were coupled with the less than likely, but often referenced dream of the team luring free-agents like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony to town with the promise of cap space and young talent.
If you were hoping to see the Sixers take that win now at all cost approach, you can relax now. That’s not the case.
Sam Hinkie and the Sixers are prescribing to the “low and slow,” method of building a team. Rush is not in their vocabulary at all. The team has clearly shown a willingness to invest in talent that may not be ready to contribute right away, but that they feel like will get there at some point.
Hinkie met with reporters today to discuss the team’s selection and their outlook on the future. “We have a goal of trying to build something that can be championship caliber,” Hinkie said. “That doesn’t happen overnight. We’ve been really open about that.”
The pattern is obviously visible. Nerlens Noel, much like Embiid, was not ready to start the season when the Sixers nabbed him on draft night last year. The big man prospect spent the year on the sidelines at the Wells Fargo Center and watched his teammates tally up 19 wins.
Michael Carter-Williams, despite his stellar Rookie of the Year campaign, was not widely regarded as an NBA-ready piece coming out of the draft and the Sixers chose to swap out their All-Star point guard in Jrue Holiday, for a young commodity that would need some time to develop to his full potential.
Embiid could very well follow the same path as Noel and watch his teammates play from the sidelines and Saric more than likely will not be a Sixer for the next two seasons. Winning is clearly not high on the Sixers priority list, at least not in the near future.
Hinkie characterized the Embiid pick as a “calculated risk,” and expects the recovery of his foot to take five to eight months. When asked about the timetable for Saric’s Sixers debut, Hinkie added, “no sooner than two years.”
It is a very odd way to build a franchise in a sports town as driven by success as Philadelphia. However, the team appears unfazed by the risk of losing the Sixers fan base due to taking too long to return the team to contention. They are prescribing to the notion that once they get it right, all the years of futility will be forgotten.
On the surface one would think that risk was all but certain to come to fruition, but the opposite seems to be taking place. The Sixers were disengaging the fan base by hovering in the middle of the NBA in the years following the Allen Iverson trade. Now there is a new level of intrigue that the Sixers exude. There is a new aura about the organization that points to a brighter future ahead even though no one seems to know exactly when that day will arrive.
Sixers fans are realizing it is better to be moving toward something, than it is to be standing still. Hinkie admitted that he has been “shocked,” by the level of understanding the Sixers fans have had.
“[The fans] understand sometimes the price you have to pay to go to where you want to go,” Hinkie said. “I’ve been shocked by how interested our fans have been.”
The landscape of the Philadelphia sports scene in recent years has fostered this new level of understanding among fans and it is being seen to its fullest extent with the Sixers. The rapid turn over in coaches and players across all the teams in recent years has seemed to make Philadelphia sports fans ready to be patient in exchange for growth in the teams. It wasn’t too long ago when Andy Reid, Doug Collins, Peter Laviolette and Charlie Manuel were the men in charge in Philadelphia.
Those days have passed and fans are embracing the idea of building from the ground up and creating cultures. The Sixers may not have been able to get away with such a unique and bold approach to dismantling and rebuilding ten years ago. Now however, seems to be the perfect climate for such a strategy.
Philadelphia sports fans do not seem to care how long it takes, as long as its done the right way.
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