On my very first day in Philly, I walked into the office of an editor who greeted me with a quick question:
“What do Philadelphia and Lawrence, Kansas have in common?” he shot.
It wasn’t an inappropriate question: I was just finishing eight years working for the newspaper in Lawrence — home of the Kansas Jayhawks — and was ready to move onward and upward in the journalism industry. So I gave the first answer that came to mind.
“Wilt Chamberlain,” I said, and dingdingdingdingding I was right. A few years later, and I might also have mentioned the Morris twins. Philadelphia and Kansas have long had a cozy little relationship: The city sent players to the country to be groomed, play high-stakes NCAA tournament games, and move on to the NBA. The closest we Kansans ever came to reciprocating was when Larry Brown — who won the 1988 championship at KU — came here to try to get Allen Iverson to practice for a few years.
That could change tonight: There’s a chance the Sixers could get two KU players in the draft: Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid. And despite injury concerns about Embiid, there’s every indication the Sixers would be pretty happy with that takeaway.
Me? I’m nervous.
I’d love to be able to transfer my rooting interest in KU — I’ve been a fan since Danny Manning’s first Final Four in 1986 — to the Sixers. I spent a decade rooting for the Utah Jazz because of Greg Ostertag. The problem is, I’m not sure how well it’ll work out for the Sixers. Both players have talent, yes, and they both seem to be “character guys,” but … well. How to put this?
This is what we KU fans were promised with Andrew Wiggins at the beginning of the 2013-14 basketball season:
Wilt played in — and lost — the greatest NCAA championship game ever, a triple overtime loss to North Carolina in 1957. Manning won the championship with one of the great underdog teams (exceeded, probably, only by the 1985 Villanova champs) in 1988, the Jayhawks known as “Danny and the Miracles.”
This year’s Jayhawks? Lost on opening weekend. To a 10 seed in the NCAA tournament. Stanford. Ugh.
Wiggins? He went 1-for-6 in that game.
And Embiid? Good kid, good talent: He didn’t even play in the NCAA tournament. Because of his bad back.
So this is my warning to you, Sixers fans: One game — one weekend — doesn’t destroy the potential of one of the best draft combos available. But KU didn’t win anything with the players you want. Why would the Sixers do any better?
Consider yourself warned.