November 08, 2017
If you're familiar with the work of ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith, first, let me say that I'm sorry to hear that. Second, it likely comes as no surprise that the former Philadelphia Inquirer columnist isn't a fan of Sam Hinkie and his Process.
Smith was hardly alone in that sentiment, but unlike many others who have started to come around on the idea of losing in the short term to win in the long, he isn't budging.
He's the captain of the anti-Process Titanic. And he certainly seems ready to go down with his ship.
On Wednesday, a day after the Sixers (6-4) got another double-double from Ben Simmons and won their fifth straight game for the first time in nearly six years – beating the Jazz, 104-97, without Joel Embiid – Molly Qerim, host of ESPN's First Take, asked Smith if he was starting to Trust the Process.
Smith unleashed a rant about "The Process" that was big on superlatives like "disgraceful" and "disgusting" but lacked, you know, simple logic.
"Hell no. And I’m not laughing. I don’t play that game, not even a little bit. I despise it. I can’t stand it. … And it’s very, very simple, because I don’t believe that any franchise should have the right to lose on purpose for years – for years – while still charging the paying customer and you’re making no effort to win. I think it’s disgraceful; I think it’s disgusting; I can’t stand it. I don’t want to hear a damn thing about it. As a matter of fact, I’m [going to] start cursing people out that ask me about it. Not on the FCC airwaves, but when I get off the air. That’s how sick I am of this damn 'process.'"
Now, the merits of tanking have been debated plenty, and I'm not here to explain to Stephen what NBA purgatory is and why the losing the Sixers did in the previous four years was far more meaningful to the future of the organization than any of the winning it did in the decade prior. Hell, even if I wanted to, Smith wouldn't let me point out some of these flaws in his argument. He'd just curse me out, because that's a totally normal response to have when someone offers a differing point of view.
If I was, however, I might say something like... I don't believe that any franchise should be content with trotting out a mediocre product for years – for years – while still charging the paying customer and you're making no effort to actually get good enough to contend?
At least with tanking you know the team is going to be bad; if you don't want to pay to see them play, stay home. What they'd been doing before Hinkie was essentially teasing fans with a team that was on the brink of contending, offering enough hope so they would buy tickets, and never really developing a plan [read: process] to turn that hope into actual winning.
I think that's disgraceful.
But Smith wasn't done yet. He then went on to praise Simmons – at least he got something right – but failed to realize that while Simmons was drafted by Bryan Colangelo, it was Hinkie's Procces that allowed the Sixers to have the No. 1 pick that year.
“Now let’s analyze this from this perspective, however. Ben Simmons is the real deal. [If] this brother gets a jumpshot, I just – listen, when we talk about the Greek Freak [Giannis Antetokounmpo] and the Anthony Davis’s of the world and people like that – Ben Simmons gets himself a jumpshot and it’s a wrap. This brother is that special; he’s on that level. So let’s give respect where it’s due. But in terms of trusting the process, we haven’t seen any production from Markelle Fultz yet. Joel Embiid is still on a minutes restriction – he’s played 31 games before this season in three years – so let’s just pump the breaks a little here. Obviously, Joel Embiid is big-time when he’s on the court playing, there is no denying that. He’s 7-[foot]-2 with mad skills. Ben Simmons is that dude. But there’s a lot of things that they could’ve done in terms of adding veterans to the squad. You didn’t have to be as awful as you’ve been."
If the Sixers weren't as awful as they were ... BEN SIMMONS WOULDN'T BE ON THIS TEAM! You can't have it both ways. Aside from that, the biggest problem is the more Stephen A. talks, the more it becomes apparent that he doesn't actually know what "The Process" means. If you think it's just about losing games, you're missing the point.
Unfortunately, there's no way for us to explain this to Smith.
"So I don’t want to hear anything about 'Trust the Process.' They’re winning games now. Let’s see how many games Embiid plays this year. Let’s see what Markelle Fultz does as the future unfolds. And then come and talk to me about it. But I don’t want to hear anything about trusting some ‘process.’ Not this kind of process.”
Typically, when you "don't want to hear" about something, it's because you were wrong about it. But it might not matter in the end, because if the Sixers' plan proves successful and Smith decides to go down with his ship, he won't have a choice.
Meanwhile, Smith's co-star Max Kellerman pretty much summed it up with this reaction:
And if you're one of those who trusts the Sixers' process, you're really going to enjoy Kellerman's full rebuttal...
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