(Reuters) - The Philadelphia 76ers may be one loss shy of setting the NBA’s record for consecutive losses, but rather than seek pity the struggling team is optimistic about what rewards may lie ahead.
The 76ers, who can set the dubious mark with a home loss to the Detroit Pistons on Saturday, have taken losing to a new level en route to dropping 26 straight games amid criticism of tanking in hopes of landing the top draft pick in June.
“It’s definitely tough taking ... loss after loss,” Sixers forward Thaddeus Young said after Thursday’s loss to the Houston Rockets tied the record. “But it’s just one of those situations where you have to keep continuing to play.”
The 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers are the only other NBA team to lose 26 consecutive games.
Having been stuck in mediocrity for much of the last decade and far from the destination of choice for the upcoming group of elite free agents, the 76ers decided to undergo a rebuild from within by trading away assets and stockpiling draft picks.
”It’s all aligned to we are not going to be pursuing free agents for a while,“ said Sixers coach Brett Brown ”We are about development. Once the alignment with development collides with a bunch of other things in the program, then you can start talking about free agents.
The losing season does not come as a surprise as the Sixers sent a message during the offseason when they sent Jrue Holiday, their All-Star point guard and top scorer from last season, to New Orleans for injured Nerlens Noel and a first-round pick.
They were also the most active team at last month’s trade deadline where they acquired a slew of draft picks.
As a result, the Sixers now have as many as seven draft picks in the talent-rich 2014 NBA draft along with plenty of room under the salary cap.
Philadelphia is 15-57 with 10 games left in the 2013-14 season, leaving them one game ahead of the last place Milwaukee Bucks.
All non-playoff NBA teams participate in a lottery process to determine the draft order and the last-place team has the best odds, or 25 percent, of landing the top pick.
Until then, the Sixers will play out the season with a cast that includes 10-day contract hopefuls and castoffs from the NBA Development League trying to make the most of their opportunity.
“I hope they feel good about themselves,” Sixers coach Brown said before Thursday’s 120-98 loss to Houston “I don’t want anyone feeling sorry for us or hanging our head ... we are going through something and we will get through it together.”
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto,; Editing by Gene Cherry