Philadelphia's the place to be.
If you can see past last weekend's disappointment, you'll see that the Sixers' future is just as bright today as it was before Russell Westbrook won the heart of Paul George at a Saturday night party and before LeBron James spurned Brett Brown and the Sixers' owners on Sunday.
That only means that the promised land might be farther off than Processors would like it to be, but the Process was never supposed to coalesce this much this quickly. One day soon, the best mercenaries will be willing to sacrifice money and years to play alongside Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
What happened this season was something of a mirage.
The Sixers added a pair of veteran shooters in February who spurred them to a 17-game winning streak and helped them reach the second round of the playoffs. It was glorious. But cameos by rental gunners Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Bellineli didn't fool George and James into believing that Embiid, Simmons and Dario Saric are an eyelash from competing with the Warriors.
You might argue that the Sixers are close, but it's hard to argue that James and George believed it. They might be right. The Sixers shouldn't be close.
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The Process was supposed to begin in earnest in 2014-15, after the first cornerstone, Nerlens Noel, recovered from his knee injury, but it was delayed by two more seasons. Noel was healthy that season but he was never given the chance to develop. Embiid missed that season, and the next, with foot injuries, then missed most of the following season with a knee injury. Which brought the Process to last season, and 52 wins, and a playoff series win over Miami.
All of that accomplishment by a team that really is only about one year into the Process of building a viable contender. It will probably take two more full seasons before the franchise — the cornerstone players, the coach and management — forms a real identity. That's what James and George had to consider. That's what Kawhi Leonard considered, too, as the Sixers tried to trade with the Spurs for him, even as he trumpeted his preference to play with LeBron and the Lakers sooner — as in this season — or later, as in next season, when he hits the open market.
In this hour of meritless mourning, realize that James and George aren't the only relevant players in the NBA. They're just the most relevant players this summer. There will be others next summer, and the summer after that.
In this moment, though, there is no good use for the undercurrent of despair beneath the tidal wave of anger that accompanied the rejections. Just because Philadelphia wanted them doesn't mean they owed Philadelphia anything.
James left the region of his birth for the region of his preference, to live and to work among in the most magnificent collection of talent in the world — at least, the most magnificent collection of talent away from the court. On the court, you can throw any four schmoes into the same uniform he's wearing and they'll have a shot at beating Golden State.
George stayed in a place he likes with a player he likes. He avoided the pressure of playing in L.A., his hometown, and he escaped the pressure of being a messiah in a new town like Philadelphia — or even in his old town, Oklahoma City. He'll always be Westbrook's understudy. Some players aren't cut out for top billing. It's best for everyone that they realize it.
Besides, what would James or George get if they came to Philadelphia?
A massively talented center who hasn't even played 100 regular-season games. A No. 1 overall pick at point guard who cannot, and will not, shoot — no, wait; they'd get two of those. A brilliant coach who made egregious mistakes in the playoffs.
They'd join a team that, in the span of 25 months, parted with two general managers in such bizarre circumstances that neither might ever again work in the NBA. They'd come to a city that ran Andre Iguodala out of town because he wasn't Kobe Bryant. They'd work for an owner, Josh Harris, who traded Iguodala, Nik Vucevic, Moe Harkless and a first-round pick for Andrew Bynum, who never played a game for the Sixers, and Jason Richardson, who played 52 games in three seasons for them. The next season, Harris embarked on a scorched-earth rebuilding policy that resulted in 75 wins over the next four seasons under the misguidance of Sam Hinkie, who whiffed on three lottery picks. Harris then hired Jerry Colangelo to hire his son, Bryan Colangelo, whose wife tweeted him out of the league.
There has been a lot of laughing done since 2012 at the Sixers' expense. It's hard to convince anyone there won't be more.
Philadelphia was not anyone's preferred destination. Nor should it have been. It had no right to believe it was.
Brown and his billionaire bosses had every obligation to try to sell hope, and potential, and excitement, but they never were likely to find buyers. Philly simply can't be considered a great place to play.