The Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday executed the latest in a seemingly endless series of roster resets. The team traded Jimmy Butler to Miami in a sign-and-trade for guard Josh Richardson, and signed veteran big man Al Horford, formerly of Boston, to a four-year deal. In addition, Tobias Harris remained with the Sixers, signing a five-year deal worth $180 million.
There were many reactions to the moves from Sixers fans, and one thing I heard more than once was that these moves represent the official end of The Process. This was part of the sports talk radio chatter on Sunday, as well as the latest salvo in the never-ending argument over Sam Hinkie and whether his multiyear strategy of extreme tanking was worth the trouble.
But then I realized something: over the course of the last four years, I've heard "the end of the Process" declared many, many times.
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Slate's Hang Up and Listen podcast, in December 2015, discussed "The End of the Process," after the Sixers hired Jerry Colangelo in a front office position giving him power over Hinkie.
Hinkie’s resignation, in April of 2016, led Sports Illustrated to declare that the general manager’s departure “put the process in doubt.” A year later, David J. Roth would write for Vice that Hinkie’s departure “brought The Process era to an end in Philadelphia.”
The Fansided blog Sir Charles In Charge asked, at the start of the season in September 2016, whether that team's improved chances represented "the end of the Process."
Then-Sixer Nik Stauskas declared in a 2017 interview with The Score that "it's time that The Process is over, it's time that we start winning games, and start competing."
The Sixer Sense podcast declared in June 2017, after the Sixers moved up to draft Markelle Fultz, that it marked "The end of the Process."
In a tweet in November of 2017, local PR guy Brian Hart declared the game-winning shot by J.J. Redick in an early-season game against Orlando "the end of The Process."
Sports Illustrated wrote that “The Process is Over” in a December 2017 issue, because the team was ready to win.
The Ringer, in a piece by local writer John Gonzalez, declared "The End of the Process" when the Sixers traded for Jimmy Butler in November 2018, in part because two of the players they gave up, Robert Covington and Dario Saric, were cornerstones of the Hinkie era.
T.J. McConnell, who has played for the Sixers for the entire era, wrote a Players Tribune piece in December 2018 with the headline "The Process Is Over."
The Washington Post asked "Is this actually the end of The Process?" in February of 2019, after the team's deadline trade for Tobias Harris.
Bob Ford, in a Philadelphia Inquirer column that same week, asked whether the Harris trade represented the end of the Process, in the sense that it was the final cashing-in of assets that had been accumulated over time, as asset accumulation was a key tenet of the Hinkie strategy.
"What if the end of the process was the lucky Kawhi shot?," Jason McIntyre wrote on Twitter Sunday, in reference to Kawhi Leonard's last-second shot in Game 7 of the Sixers' playoff series against Toronto, in May 2019.
Bob Ford, once again, addressed the subject in an early June column, ultimately concluding that the three GMs -- Hinkie, Bryan Colangelo, and Elton Brand -- will represent “the beginning, middle, and end of The Process.”
Which event really marked the end of The Process? There's really no right answer.
The Process, after all, is something of a nebulous concept with no official definition, especially as fans continue to chant "Trust the Process" at home games and Joel Embiid has even adopted The Process as a nickname.
Is The Process merely a euphemism for Sam Hinkie's tenure as general manager, and the resulting run of losing seasons? Does it count only the tanking period, or all events that flowed from it in the years afterward? Or does the Process continue for as long as any players that came to the Sixers as a result of Hinkie's strategy remain on the team, and therefore as long as they have a nucleus that's led by Embiid and Simmons?
The two events with the greatest claim to represent the end of the Process are probably Hinkie’s resignation in 2016, and the trade of Covington and Saric for Butler in 2018. But it’s absolutely defensible to place the beginning of the Process at the moment of Hinkie’s hiring, and the end at whatever time the last players from that era depart. Your mileage may vary on that, as will that of the entirety of the local and national sports media.
In the meantime, I can absolutely see Joel Embiid, in 15 years, announcing his retirement from basketball, and the local media declaring that No. 21’s retirement marks, at last, the official end of The Process.
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