About Dr. J's ‘Seven Years' quote for Sixers being ‘formidable'


By Stephen Silver

Among Philadelphia sports media and fandom’s anti-Sam Hinkie faction, a key talking point has long been that Hinkie and the rest of the Sixers’ management has failed to articulate an exact timetable for when the team can expect to contend. How can the Sixers expect to be good, the reasoning goes, when they can’t even tell us when they’ll be good? 

Last week, thanks to one of franchise’s all-time greats, the Hinkie skeptics got something resembling an answer. 

Except that really, they didn’t.

Julius Erving appeared on  Sirius XM NBA Radio last Wednesday and told host Jared Greenberg that he was told around the time the Sixers’ current ownership group took over that the team had a seven-year timetable to be “formidable.” 

 “Well when they acquired the team in 2012, maybe, I think the talk was about seven years,” Erving said in the interview. “Seven years, so I think it’s still in that same timeline… to be good, to be formidable.” 

So is this a gotcha, proving that the Sixers’ plan all along was to suck for many years? Not exactly. 

For one thing, the Dr. J quote is incredibly vague. He doesn’t attribute the seven-years statement to any person in particular, nor does he put it into exact words or context. He’s using an out-of-context, paraphrased quote from several years ago and attributing it to no one. It could have been anything from “we hope to win a championship within seven years” to “we’ll be .500 in Year 3, playoffs in Year 5 and championship in Year 7” to  “our goal is to at least get respectable by Year 7.” We don’t know who said it, or when, or why. 

Erving says “when they acquired the team in 2012, maybe,” when it fact the Harris group bought the team in 2011, putting the expiration of the seven-year clock in 2018. And even if Erving was told that back then, it doesn’t necessarily mean the 2011-era “seven years” timetable is still the plan. A key member of the original group, team president Adam Aron, is long gone from the organization. Sam Hinkie wasn’t hired until 2013, and the campaign of radical rebuilding wasn’t embarked upon until about then. 

It also sounds odd that anyone running the Sixers in 2011 or 2012 would express hope about being good in seven years when the in fact the team made the playoffs and even won a series in the 2011-’12 season.  

The “seven years” comment has also been misinterpreted by a lot of fans, who misunderstood and believe the seven-year clock starts right now and the Sixers are looking to be good in 2022. Which, even if you’re as anti-Hinkie as it comes, you’ve gotta think they’ll have a way to at least reach .500 by then. But if the wait for contention ends in 2018? I think most Sixers fans would take that deal. 

I’ve never quite understood the talking point that Sam Hinkie absolutely must articulate exactly when the Sixers plan to be good again. Why would he? What purpose would that serve? He’s been given a degree of patience and long-term buy-in from ownership that’s practically unheard of in sports history, and he’s only two years in- why would Hinkie make that sort of promise? Why would shooting for a specific year be in any way in the team’s interest, except to pacify the critics who despise The Process with the fire of a thousand suns? 

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