ORLANDO — When Jimmy Butler was announced for his first ever game in a 76ers uniform there was a loud roar throughout the Magic arena. This may have been a road game, but it sure didn’t sound like it in that moment. Butler was the prize acquisition for the 76ers in a recent trade that got him his wish of finally getting out of Minnesota. Reports later said that he was all in on the 76ers and is expected to sign a new contract with his new team at the end of the season. The Sixers believe their championship window is open. They’re going all in.
As the crowd roared for Butler an air filled the Orlando arena. It’s not uncommon for opposing fans to take over the Magic’s arena during player introductions. The Magic have been at the bottom for years. The Sixers were a playoff team last season. Winning teams take over losing arenas. It’s just still odd to see the Sixers as the ones taking over. It wasn’t that long ago that nobody came to see them. They were too pathetic to watch.
“The life we have lived in Philadelphia from being 1-30.” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “To go through different things with our draft picks and injuries…But the foundation we’ve been able to build and grow in a culture. That doesn’t happen in pro sports. Not when you’re 1-30. And so you know when you say, do you ever think ‘have you arrived?’ Of course you do. Of course you do.”
The Sixers have certainly made it. No longer a perennial bottom feeder to the rest of the NBA, Philadelphia is for the first time in a long time transitioning into something bigger. For years the Sixers were patiently building through “The Process” and it came with plenty growing pains and criticism. A 10-win season. A rotating door for a roster. Trade after trade shipping off players for the promise of future assets.
The architect of “The Process” Sam Hinkie was eventually removed in what was essentially the NBA telling them they had to start trying. At their lowest points, it didn’t seem like it was worth all the pain. Then last season happened.