PHILADELPHIA (AP) - They are a loss away from becoming the Philadelphia 26ers.
As in, losers of 26 in a row.
A skid that would match the longest losing streak in NBA history and leave the 76ers one loss of holding the record for the four major professional sports.
“It’s tough we lose them consecutively, but it’s the NBA,” guard Tony Wroten said. “You play another day.”
With a another loss Thursday at Houston, the Sixers (15-56) will tie the NBA record of 26 straight losses set by the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers. The potential record setter is Saturday at home against Detroit.
But the 76ers say this seemingly infinite skid comes with a purpose: Finishing first.
Philadelphia is losing to win the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft.
Former Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy is among the critics that call Philly’s style of lottery-bound losing, tanking. Sixers management simply says it’s old-fashioned rebuilding. Whatever the label, the team with the worst record in the NBA has a 25 percent chance of winning the No. 1 overall pick.
But there’s a flaw in the Sixers’ plan: Even with the avalanche of defeats, they still don’t have the worst record in the NBA, Milwaukee does. Entering Thursday, the Bucks are 13-58 and that puts them in the driver’s seat as they plummet toward the top spot.
The Bucks may be serving as motivation for the Sixers; there’s no suspense these days in the outcome of Philadelphia games. The Sixers been outscored by 16.9 points during the losing streak; Cleveland was outscored by 13.7 while setting the record.
Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said the Sixers will be better off as a result of the losing.
“It’s those short-term, real pains for what we hope will be a bunch of long-term gains,” Brown said. “This period of time is not pleasant for any of us. But it’s necessary.”
But it’s a hefty price to pay.
“Nobody wants to have that record,” said Cavs forward Anderson Varejao, a member of the Cleveland squad that lost 26 straight. “It is what it is. If they get it, it’s too bad for them. It’s a tough time and it’s not easy. I don’t even think they think about how many games they’ve lost.
“It’s just one of those things where you go out to win and you end up losing.”