I've always said that the Philadelphia-area sports fans are best in the nation. We are passionate, knowledgeable, loyal, and we can be louder than anybody. But we are also schizophrenic! We fall in love quickly, but just as quickly we can fall out of love. We can be ebullient and optimistic about our teams' chances, but we can also be great pessimists because our hearts have been broken so many times.
Take the fans most recent love affair with Joel Embiid. Its intensity is only surpassed by our love for Carson Wentz, but he doesn't really count because after Monday night's performance, it is clear he is not really human and should be dubbed a superhero. Our fan base has been decidedly split about Sam Hinke's long-range rebuild plan, but as Embiid has blossomed into an NBC elite, more and more of us find ourselves "Trusting the Process."
We entered this season with high hopes, and some of us were even wildly optimistic. The preseason did nothing to dampen that enthusiasm. Embiid didn't play a lot but looked dominating when he did, and Ben Simmons looked like he could almost immediately become a superstar. JJ Redick looked like the three-point shooter we have needed since we traded away Kyle Korver, and our bench looked deep and good with Dario Saric having the potential to cotend for the Sixth Man trophy. Even before the preseason, our optimism caused us to rush out and buy season tickets at an incredible rate. Home games are essentially sell-outs.
We are now five games into the season and panic has set in. The team is only 1-4 and blew what appeared to be a commanding lead Wednesday night against the Rockets. Our third protected superstar, Markelle Fultz, has looked downright awful, and like Embiid and Simmons before him, he appears to have a shoulder injury, which may or may not disable him for a significant period of time. All of our optimism and high hopes have gone up in smoke. The Process appears not to be trusted anymore, and many of our friends are calling for Brett Brown's head. Here we go again. The team that had us so revved up and had us giving our cash away in a frenzy for tickets now looks like a disaster.
As the great TV sportscaster Keith Jackson used to say, "Whoa Nellie!" Let's all take a deep breath and chill out. I believe there is no reason to panic and that the Sixers are still on the threshold of something good. Remember, our three young stars-in-the making are kids. Fultz is 19, Simmons is 21, and Embiid the old man is 23. They only have one year of college experience. Embiid has only played in 35 NBA games and Simmons and Fultz started their careers on opening night. So, calm down Sixers fans, the kids are all right. It may take a little longer than we thought, but it's going to be fine. I predict by the middle of next year, Embiid and Simmons both will be among the top 25 players in the NBA. The book is out on Fultz, but remember virtually every NBA team had him as the first pick in the draft and he is only one and a half years removed from high school. I believe we've got many exciting and productive seasons ahead of us, and though there undoubtedly will be stumbles, I think we can all agree that finally we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Say it again, the kids are all right!