On Saturday The Philadelphia 76ers continued their descent toward an all time low. After losing 81-71 to the Chicago Bulls they picked up their 24th consecutive loss moving them into sole possession of second place on the NBA’s list of all time losing streaks. The current owners of the record, the members of the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers, are likely all smiles as the Sixers continue to lay stinkers all across America while inching closer to the tragic honor. If anyone’s looking for a Cinderella story they are certainly not going to find it in Philly.
The magic number, or unholy number depending on the beholder is 26 consecutive losses. Now holding firm at 24, the 76ers will go on the this week to face San Antonio and Houston, two Western Conference playoff teams that are unlikely to let them off the hook. If Philadelphia loses in both of those contests they will tie the record and return home for a suddenly intriguing match up with the Detroit Pistons on March 29. The Pistons, who currently sit in the 11 spot in the Eastern Conference, have been all but eliminated from the playoff picture and are basically playing for pride at this point, but, maybe a chance to carve a little piece of history in Philly could get them firing with a little added enthusiasm. Of course the 76ers should not be expected to simply roll over, they will compete. But it is very difficult to picture them winning either of the next two games, and even beating Detroit seems like a coin flip at this juncture.
However, was much more really expected of this team after the last two off-seasons were spent gutting the roster? They had some pieces to build from but instead opted to trade or let the pieces walk via free agency and kick-started this rebuilding process they find themselves in now. They are the new Philadelphia 76ers and they continue the descent toward an all time low because they are dead last in field goal percentage, three-point field goal percentage, turnovers, plus minus, and third last in free throw percentage. But more importantly they are approaching the all time record for consecutive losses because they simply do not have the talent. They are the NBA’s youngest team and they play like it.
Though, in the midst of all the darkness there is a bright spot in the form of rookie of the year candidate Michael Carter-Williams. Without a true star on the roster–Thaddeus Young is a good player but not a star–the do-it-all guard from Syracuse has been relied upon to create offense for this depleted Sixers squad from day one and has done nothing but impress. He leads the team in assists, is second in scoring, second in steals, and is tied for second in rebounds. The Sixers are desperately hoping that Carter-Williams can become the type of star player that they can build the franchise around, but in order to continue his progression they will need to provide him with some help.
Some of that help may already be on the roster in the form of fellow 2013 first round pick Nerlens Noel, a center from Kentucky who has not made his NBA debut yet due to an ACL tear he sustained near the end of the 2013 NCAA season. Philadelphia acquired Noel in the Jrue Holliday trade in the hopes that he can become a force at the rim and a shot-blocking nightmare in the same vein as Dikembe Mutombo was during the Iverson years. Though, obviously these Sixers have a long way to go to match up with those teams, and it would be unfair to peg Carter-Williams as the next Allen Iverson, but Philly’s front office sure would look better if he was.
Some records are meant to be broken. Others people dare not touch. And as the 76ers take to the road this week there is a very good chance that they continue their descent toward that all time low to break a record, and touch what nobody else dares to.
Commentary by Kalen Skalesky