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July 04, 2017

The Sixers' bandwagon is about to get real crowded

No matter what you think of how the Philadelphia 76ers got to this point, you would be foolish not to let all that bad water flow under the bridge and walk across that river of losing to a bright future.

The Sixers are poised to be a show-of-shows in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, and if things work out right, a show-of-shows in the entire NBA. Those years of losing and playing in front of empty seats are rapidly ending and there is nothing that says you need to be a true believer to enjoy what is about to take place.

The Sixers’ high-voltage summer got another jolt of energy at the start of this holiday week when Markelle Fultz took the floor Monday night in the Utah Summer League. Say what you want about the level of competition, but it sure was nice to see a part of the future actually on the floor making things happen.

It was a nice start for Fultz, and there was added intrigue as it involved the Boston Celtics. You can’t make too much of a couple of almost rookies on a basketball court in terms of actual NBA matchups, but there is sure to be an ongoing rivalry between the Sixers and Celtics, who traded that first overall pick to the Sixers who selected Fultz.

And it didn’t take long for the old Parquet-versus-Philly emotional fires to get stoked in what should be a rebirth of the heyday of great matchups between the storied franchises.

The problem is the Sixers have been the running joke in the NBA – and in all pro sports – but there was always a suggestion that someday the joke would be on everybody else.

Nothing is going to undo the planned demolition of the Sixers that left so many people angry, but what is the point of wallowing in that past?

At this point, the Sixers have emerged as the most fascinating franchise in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia – like all cities where the NFL resides – remains a football town, but right now, the Sixers have every chance to make some eyes leave the Eagles for at least a little while between Sundays in the late fall and winter.

In a matter of just a few weeks, the Sixers stole the headlines when they made the trade with the Celtics to draft Fultz, and then turned even more heads when they went into the free agency market to land J.J. Redick.

The Redick deal was notable on a number of levels: In the first place, there is the simple on-the-floor status of a player who provides some perimeter presence and carries a 41.5 shooting percentage from three-point range.

Second, he has turned into a solid defensive player and will serve as the sort of veteran team leader needed by a young team like the Sixers.

Third, there’s the matter of the contract. Redick reportedly turned down multiyear offers from other clubs and agreed to the Sixers’ one-year, $23 million offer because the Sixers looked like a good landing spot for this year – and perhaps beyond.

In other words, all of those people who reasonably questioned why a free agent would choose the Sixers can now rest a little more easily.

The addition of Redick is a clear indication that the Sixers days of accepting second-class status are over, and they have made a move that should make them a real playoff contender this season.

Even more to the point, the addition of Redick might be only the first of bigger free agent moves in the future, as the Sixers become the target of free agents who want to hitch their talents to a team on the rise.

Generations of great players turn over quickly in sports, and the Sixers base of young talent will make Philadelphia a very attractive landing spot for future free agents – especially when the Sixers have such a hefty wallet to use in that market.

Philadelphia sports fans are among the most passionate in the nation, but they are not foolhardy with their money.

Even if a fan bought into the notion of trusting the process in the past, they were not buying in with their cash to buy tickets. It is a far different story this summer as more than 14,000 fans have signed on for some sort of ticket plan and you can expect to see the Wells Fargo Center filled for every night of basketball.

You can also expect to see the Sixers as a big draw on the road, a regular team on national television and a big part of discussions about the NBA in general.

Indeed, the Sixers and Embiid have taken a huge step into a bright future, and as long as that foot remains healthy, it will be a really big show for a really long time.