The 76ers worked long and hard to acquire Ben Simmons; it was a 24-7 job. They tanked the past three years, even as they played hard, but their talent level hovered around the D+ level. They signed marginal players who were incapable of scoring and defending on a nightly basis and often were embarrassed. They defended this gross injustice by calling it a name, as if “The Process” would pretty it all up sometime in the future when we looked back on that time when Philly won 18 games. They asked their fans to pay $10.00 for tickets, cover their eyes at times, be patient, pray, and remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Things were going to get better. Sure, what was on the court was evidence of how less is not more, but damn it, that was temporary. For now. Not permanent.
Better was supposed to be now. 2016-17.
But before now, they drafted Elfrid Payton, then traded him. He was on the All-NBA Rookie team. They drafted Michael Carter-Williams. He was Rookie of the Year. They traded him. They had a productive Nikola Vucevic. They traded him for Andrew Bynum, who, you guessed it, was injured. They drafted Nerlens Noel. He sat out his rookie season, injured. They drafted Joel Embiid who broke his foot and had surgery. He has yet to play a NBA game. They drafted Jahlil Okafor. He injured his knee in game 53. If it wasn’t so depressing, it would be funny. But it is the 76ers. Nothing is ever funny.
You get the impression that somewhere, in some place on planet earth, Sam Hinkie is smirking. Forced out because Hinkie was the strange mad scientist GM, a non-conformist to the bone whose breath of fresh or damaged air, whichever you choose to believe, engulfed the organization in mediocrity. And yet it set up the drafting of Ben Simmons.
If you caught Ben Simmons NBA prologue in summer league, you were spellbound at this reinvention of the Magic Johnson exceptionalism, seeing the court before anyone else, brilliant passing, a feel for the playmaking game and if that failed he could just blow by his man and get to the rim for a dunk.
But that is on hold for a while. Simmons rolled on his ankle during a scrimmage. Further tests concluded he had a break in the fifth metatarsal. Translation: crutches and out for the foreseeable future. If surgery is needed, it hasn’t been made public.
A lot of hand wringing over a freakish injury because this is the 76ers and this is what they do. Find a way to go backwards while selling the script about going forwards. That narrative used to belong to the Los Angeles Clippers. Once upon a time, their 6-10 rookie forward broke his kneecap before his inaugural season was to begin. Blake Griffin was out the year. It set Griffin back but he recovered and became an All-Star and that is probably the likely scenario for Simmons. Except foot injuries are one of those problem areas. They either disappear, or they occur repeatedly.
As far as the basketball goes, the 76ers were not going to win more than 25 games this season. The hope was to let the young guys play and see what each one can bring with Simmons being the conductor. Simmons gave the 76ers an opportunity to be a point guard and run the offense while being a dominant presence on the wing and in the paint.
The 76ers have very few options at playmaking. Jerryd Bayliss is their most experienced point and he’s mediocre at running a team. He’s never had a 3 assist season. As an offensive player, he’s a catch and shoot scorer meaning he has to catch it from someone else. Exactly who would that be?
On the plus side, Joel Embiid will make his NBA debut after three years. He’s big enough and versatile enough where you can throw the ball into him and let him do his thing. But, dare I mention he is recovering from a foot injury too.
Bad news is the Philly normal. By now everyone is used to it. No need to cry. This isn’t spilled milk. It’s the same old 76er thing.
photo via llananba