76ers need injured players healthy for ‘Process’ to work
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Philadelphia 76ers had a mural unveiled in their honor on a city building adorned with vibrant images of stars of their past. Allen Iverson. Julius Erving. Charles Barkley. Championship banners and a trophy were represented on the design from an 11-year-old boy.
Across the river in New Jersey, some of the cornerstones of a hopeful future had a simple goal of making their own mark, with a playoff berth next, and beyond. Ben Simmons. Dario Saric. And not far from their thoughts, Joel Embiid.
Embiid, rehabbing his surgically repaired left knee in Los Angeles, tried to leave the fans with an encouraging Twitter post headed into yet another uncertain Sixers offseason.
“Thanks to the best fans in the world for the support this season,” Embiid wrote . “There Will be a lot more months of ‘JANUARY’ next year. #TrustTheProcess.”
Embiid showed flashes this season that he can develop into a dominant All-Star force at center and he sparked them to a 10-5 record in January — a win total, in case you forgot, matched the 76ers’ total from all of last season.
But when Embiid went down, so did the Sixers, and their 28-54 record was the fourth-worst in the NBA and served as a stinging reminder that The Process is nowhere close to finished.
Embiid at least played in this third crack at a rookie season. Saric may usurp his teammate and win NBA Rookie of the Year in his first season after a two-year stint overseas. Simmons, who had fans salivating at the idea the No. 1 overall pick in the draft come become an instant star, missed the entire season with a broken right foot and was only cleared this week to increase his on-court activity with a goal of gradually progressing to 5-on-5 work.
Embiid and Simmons were teamed more often on the injury report than in the starting five.
But if healthy, boy, could the Sixers fly.
“I can’t wait to play with him,” Simmons said. “He’s a fun guy, but at the same time, he wants to win and compete no matter what.”
The Sixers have flexed plenty of patience since they kickstarted this laborious rebuild under coach Brett Brown and have got to the point that a healthy core, another key lottery pick (or two), and perhaps a significant free agent can eek them into the postseason in 2018.
Here’s some of what to know going into Philadelphia’s offseason:
Simmons, the 6-foot-10, 250-pound forward out of LSU, was injured during the final training camp scrimmage. Simmons should next season as the point guard. The Sixers have yet to decide if Simmons will play in the summer league or even participate in 5-on-5 drills.
“I think we can do big things,” Simmons said. “I think we can do some damage.”
The 76ers have an 11.9 percent chance of winning the No. 1 pick in draft lottery. They have a 37.8 percent chance of earning at least a top-three selection.
But wait, there’s more.
The Sixers could get the Los Angeles Lakers (26-56) pick if it falls outside the top three and Philly does have the right to trade first-round slots with the Sacramento Kings.
This summer will be a key one for Sixers President Bryan Colangelo, entrusted with turning disposed leader Sam Hinkie’s Process into something more than a cute catchphrase with no tangible results.
BIG MEN GLUT
The Sixers solved some of their big men issues when the traded Nerlens Noel at the deadline. Jahlil Okafor, the No. 3 pick of the 2015 draft, has been a monster bust and averaged just 11.8 points in 50 games. His defensive lapses were singled out and mocked on social media and, if he returns, it will again be as Embiid’s backup.
Okafor was benched leading up to the trade deadline in hope they could move him. The Sixers will try and dump him again this summer.
“Great things are happening here in Philadelphia and I’d love to be a part of it,” Okafor said.
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