WHEREVER YOU LAND on The Process debate, the Sixers' long-range and long-suffering scheme has added, not subtracted, from interest in the team. I will say it again because it is so true: They are the pro basketball version of Mel Brooks' The Producers. The more things go wrong, the crazier it becomes, the more this team captures our collective interest.
And so the events of the last 48 hours, which would be little notes in towns such as Oakland and Cleveland, are treated as headlines deserving of great scrutiny. Jerryd Bayless, the would-be point guard of the latest would-be Sixers team who injured his left wrist before the season's start, scrimmaged Wednesday. Won't be long now. How long? Not quite sure.
Same with those time constraints on Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid, the latter of whom we expected to play his 20-plus minutes in Wednesday night's 109-102 victory over Washington, but did not. Why? Again, not quite sure.
"I am a recipient of news from the medical staff and I follow instruction," coach Brett Brown said when asked. "It's really that simple. It is completely designed for what is best for Joel Embiid."
So, instead, Okafor got the start he's been pining for, played his 20 minutes and change, scored 19 points, had five rebounds, and fouled out amid one of those all-too-familiar opponent's rallies that have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in nine of the first 10 games, again creating some debate about Brown's coaching acumen.
This is done despite what plays out in front of their eyes. T.J. McConnell, designed to be the team's third-string point guard, running the offense in those final frantic minutes. Richaun Holmes, playing because both Okafor and Ersan Ilyasova had fouled out, dropping a huge three-pointer off a broken play to push the lead back up to six points with 70 seconds to play.
"Exactly the way we drew it up," Brown said with a smirk. "We'll take it."
Brown then went on to talk about his team's poise, about how they "learned how to win a close game," about the months of practicing those late-game situations and the frustration of not employing those lessons over the first 10 games of this season - nine of which resulted in losses.
They have won two of their last four, however, and including Wednesday night, eight of their next 10 games will be played at home. This was pointed out by the fourth-year coach, who always sees light at the end of a tunnel that seems to keep extending, like a Slinky. Even with Bayless' seemingly imminent return, they are still a recipe with missing ingredients and incomplete ones and, as Wednesday night underlined, apparently will be for a while.
"This is going to be the rhythm of Joel Embiid for awhile," Brown said when asked when the time constraints might be lifted for his difference-maker. "Maybe for the whole year . . . "
OK, start the debate. The Sixers are prudent, aware that Embiid, while providing nightly excitement to its growing fan base, will not make enough impact with this team to warrant the risk. Or, he plays better in the second half of his games than his first, proving he is ready for a bigger bite.
"There isn't anything that's mapped out over a long period of time," said Brown. " . . . I ask question after question after question. It's my job to. And my real job is to try to look at Joel responsibly and not selfishly. Because we all see the difference Joel makes when he's in the game.
"It's getting to a point where I'm comfortable and able to do anything that I think I should be able to do," Bayless said before the game. "Hopefully sooner rather than later."
Yeah, hopefully. Because Wednesday night, trying to hang on to a three-point lead that was in the double digits for most of the night, McConnell was running the point. When the recipe for this season was scripted over the summer, McConnell was to spell veteran Sergio Rodriguez, who was to give Bayless some breathers. Without him there, "Everybody gets shoved to the front row," said Brown.
"It comes with a little bit of weight, though. To see Jerryd play, to see him get up and down the floor - you leave thinking that is a real significant piece to what we are missing. We look forward to getting him back."
The assumption being, of course, that nothing else goes awry in the meantime. No setback for Embiid. The continued seasoning of Dario Saric, who pulled down 12 rebounds and scored 13 points in just over 26 minutes. A hint maybe, if it's not too much to ask, of Ben Simmons' timeline.
"We live in 10-game worlds," Brown said. "I've done it since I accepted this job. I knew that early we would lose games and you'd be able to cleanse and move on - this is where we were, this where we are, this is where we want to be stuff."
And we, monitoring every inch forward.