“Trust the Pro-cess!” the chant reverberated around the Capital One Arena in Washington on Wednesday night.
From Section 415 in the bleachers to Section 120 behind the Sixers bench; the catchphrase that has come to define this Philadelphia franchise at its lowest lows is now the war-cry as the team reaches for dizzying new heights.
Joel Embiid, the original embodiment of the “The Process” embraced it too – turning to crowd in the first quarter and encouraging them to be even louder.
While Philadelphia may not have won Wednesday night’s opening battle, it’s gearing up for a tantalizing 2017-18 season where winning no longer is a distant dream.
Likewise, the dream was finally realized for Australian-born Ben Simmons, who took the court for his NBA debut after sitting out the 2016-17 season with a broken foot.
“[It] felt like I was playing 2K, honestly,” Simmons said after the game.
“Just looking out there – seeing Embiid out there with the lights on his jersey and it was like man, I’m actually here.
“It’s fun. I’m enjoying it,” Simmons said.
His teammates are certainly enjoying Simmons’ presence too.
The 6’10 forward with the skills of a point guard looked eminently comfortable on the NBA court – his full repertoire on display – from his supreme athleticism in transition, to his poise in the half court, to his uncanny passing ability at all times.
Simmons stuffed the stat sheet like a Christmas stocking.
“I mean, how about Ben Simmons’ first game in the NBA?”, Coach Brett Brown asked, rhetorically, post-game.
“He ends up with 18 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, only one turnover – and really – there were times where you thought he could’ve finished even more but I feel like his first game was really exceptional. Really, really, exceptional.
“Physically we all see what he is as an athlete and I think that his growth path – his improvement scale, you know, I think can be off the charts. He was really good tonight.”
Equally, Embiid was imposing on both ends of the court. His 7’0 frame caused all sorts of problems for Washington early and on the other end of the floor he showed a willingness to shoot the three (even if he didn’t make them) and a robust set of post moves for a guy that’s played just 32 NBA games.
Oh, and the number one pick in the 2017 NBA Draft? Markelle Fultz? He came off the bench – dropping 10 points in limited movements.
The time has arrived in Philadelphia.
However, it was stability not potential that won the day. In a game that pegged one of the most exciting teams in the league with one of the most known entities, the Wizards stuck with what has worked for them for so many season now to grind out a 120-115 win.
Of course, it was John Wall who did most of the damage – dropping 28 points (on 10/28 shooting) and leading his team to victory. Down the stretch running pick and rolls with his old mate, Marcin Gortat.
But the Wizards broke away in the third quarter following a Jodie Meeks triple that gave them a 77-75 edge.
John Wall then scored 7 of the Wizards’ next 9 points – including an emphatic left-hand slam – stretching the lead to nearly double digits.
In the fourth quarter, the 76ers went small and clawed their way back, led by its newly signed veterans – Jerryd Bayless and JJ Redick – as well as Robert Covington.
The trio of veterans – alongside young guns Ben Simmons and Dario Saric quickly tied the game.
But it was crucial turnovers down the stretch by those very veterans that meant Philadelphia never got the chance to take a shot to win it.
“You look up and with a minute-thirty left and be only down two – that’s a good reason to be happy with a lot of what we saw,” Coach Brown said after the game.
“You get upset toward the end when we had those two crucial turnovers but by and large my immediate thoughts are there are a lot of positives,” he said.
“That was one of the best teams in the East so that says something about us,” Simmons added.
Now Philadelphia has a chance to be one of those teams too.