The Sixers held a press conference yesterday to showcase six players either signed in free agency or acquired via trade. Two of those guys, Tobias Harris and James Ennis, are returning players, while the remaining four were in locations other than the City of Brotherly Love last season. The event was emblematic of an Elton Brand regime that has quickly become synonymous with rapid roster overhauls. It also marked the culmination of the transition from what many consider the Process era.
With T.J. McConnell signing with the Pacers this summer, no Sixers player that suited up for the team during the 2015-16 season will take the court for Philadelphia in 2019-20. Brand was a player then, having since retired and gone on to helm the front office, and Joel Embiid was on the roster, but had still yet to make his NBA debut. Just four years ago, we watched 82 games of that ragtag group, hoping to see signs of promise for the future. Now, aside from having a small handful of guys like Robert Covington serve as valuable trade chips, it’s like it happened in an alternative reality.
Even one year later during the 2016-17 season, Joel Embiid was the only player to take the court and still be around. Tack on another year to the 2017-18 campaign and we can add Ben Simmons. That’s crazy! Just two guys remain from two years ago. I know we’re all ultimately rooting for laundry, but the Sixers are taking the idea to the extreme.
Yet, despite the relatively short amount of time we’ve had the current guys around, we feel like we know them. We’ve watched a web series with Tobias Harris palling around with Boban. The Rights to Ricky Sanchez guys are already selling an Al Horford appreciator t-shirt. Shake Milton won folks’ hearts by assuming the mantle of Chief Frosty Freeze-Out Cheerleader. Everything that came from Vegas Summer League over the last week or so only made Zhaire Smith and Matisse Thybulle seem more endearing. ONE OF OUR WRITERS GOT A MIKE SCOTT HIVE TATTOO AND ELTON BRAND JUST GAVE THE HIVE A SHOUT-OUT AT THE PRESS CONFERENCE!
Is it just that with social media and 24-hour sports coverage, we know these players so much better (or at least we think we do), and it doesn’t matter that they’ve only technically been around for months or even days. Does whatever connection gets formed between fan and player get accelerated because we have the ability to look back at everything he’s ever tweeted, snapped, or posted to IG? Just think, if your favorite team traded for a player 20 years ago, you might have seen him play a couple times each year and that might be the extent of your knowledge about him. So it would make sense that it would take a longer time to feel an affinity towards him.
Players are moving around the league more than ever before, forming superteams and dynamic duos, and the Sixers have been as transitory as anybody. I’m not quite sure how I feel about a world where the team I watched just four years ago is literally entirely different than the one I’ll watch this fall. I don’t know if this new reality is better or worse, but it sure is interesting.