By Dan Gelston
AP Sports Writer
PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia 76ers are on a PR blitz trying to win fans’ patience since they are unable to win on the court.
General manager Sam Hinkie — needing something to do, with Jerry Colangelo now calling the shots — filmed a spot for the latest promotional video released Thursday that made it seem like he was stumping for votes on the campaign trail. Wearing a hard hat at the eventual site of their new team headquarters, Hinkie’s voiceover says the team is moving “into a building that will embody a lot of the values important to us.”
Hinkie and the 76ers even have a catchy campaign slogan: “Trust the Process.”
The fans the organization is trying to woo could easily shoot back with a motto of their own: Win Some Games.
Year 3 of — Tanking? Rebuilding? You pick the side — is the worst one yet under owner Josh Harris, Hinkie and coach Brett Brown.
Worst of the NBA season? Well, yeah, that was inevitable in training camp. Worst of all time? Getting close.
The Sixers are 9-66 entering Friday’s game at Charlotte, on pace to match the worst 82-game record in NBA history. Should the Sixers lose their final seven games, they will finish at 9-73, tying the miserable mark set by — spoiler alert! — the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1972-73 season.
The Sixers have lost 10 straight games, and would finish on a 17-game losing streak should they fail to put another ‘W’ in the column.
Under Brown, the Sixers have at one point lost both 26 and 28 straight games, the latter the longest losing streak in the history of pro sports.
Allen Iverson, expected to be named to the Hall of Fame on Monday, once railed against practice, but is now preaching another p-word: Patience.
“I think in Philadelphia, real fans, you’ve got to be patient and understand how young these guys are and know that the potential is there,” Iverson said. “The talent is there, they’re just young, bro. We’ve got to give them a chance.”
The dysfunctional Los Angeles Lakers are the next closest in the worst-of-the-worst teams with 16 wins.
The biggest win of the season just might come in the draft lottery, where this avalanche of defeats has the Sixers positioned to win the No. 1 pick.
But losing has come at a price, even for the greatest players in franchise history.
“If you’re great here, you’re a legend,” Hinkie says in the video. “Wilt. Allen. Charles. You don’t need a second name.”
Sometimes, the legends don’t need a first one.
Like Dr. J.
Julius Erving, the Hall of Famer who starred on the 76ers’ last title team in 1983, is tired of watching the franchise founder at the bottom of the NBA.
“It hurts to see the franchise down,” Erving said. “We want to be associated with a winning team. We’ve got to take crap from other retired players from teams that are winning right now. Then we have to remind them how we used to beat up on them in our day. It’s a little bit back and forth. There’s bragging rights. We’d like for the Sixers to help us get some bragging rights.”
There are the infamous kind of bragging rights, as well.
Fred Carter, who played on that 1972-73 Sixers team and would coach the team in the 1990s, said this year’s team is worse than the 70s edition because of how open the franchise has been about the plan to hit bottom. Carter said his Sixers were not built for losing; it just sort of happened.
Carter wants the Sixers to win at least one more game so the ‘73 team will continue to hold the dubious mark.
“Sunday, I’ll go to mass. Sunday, I’ll light an extra candle for them,” he said, laughing. “I don’t know if I’ll be lighting a candle for them or lighting one for me, but I will light one. It’s better to be remembered than not remembered at all.”
This season’s Sixers would rather not go down as the worst of all time.
“Most of the games we’re in, we’ve been able to put up a game,” forward Nerlens Noel said.
So, can a team that had Christian Wood, Sonny Weems and even Elton Brand suit up this season avoid a single-digit victory season?
Let’s take a look:
• March 30, at Charlotte: The Hornets lead the series 3-0 and just thumped the Sixers 100-85 on Tuesday.
• April 2, vs. Pacers: The Pacers lead the series 2-0 and will play the Sixers on the second night of back-to-backs.
• April 5, vs New Orleans: “Ahhh, that’s their 10!” Carter said. “They shut down Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday. That’ll get them 10.”
Carter might be right. The woeful Pelicans (27-47) won in their only other meeting, but have benched their injured stars for the season, meaning this could be Philly’s best shot at the 10th win.
• April 8, vs New York: Pro: It’s the Knicks. Con: New York leads the series 3-0.
Then it’s games against the Bucks, Raptors and Bulls, teams that are a combined 8-0 vs. the 76ers this season.
There could be hope in the franchise’s bloodlines — four seasons after the nine-win team, the 76ers reached the NBA Finals and they won it all 10 years later.
Can they find that franchise savior in the draft?
“Allen Iverson ain’t walking through the door,” Iverson said.
And the suffering continues.