Lost history not made here


PHILADELPHIA -- With about 40 seconds remaining, the thousands of fans who remained until the end hoping not to witness history stood up and delivered a rousing standing ovation.

If ever a standing O sounded like a sigh of relief, this was it.

On Saturday night, the Philadelphia 76ers avoided going down in infamy as they crushed the Detroit Pistons 123-98, snapping a 26-game losing streak.

By winning for the first time since Jan. 29, the Sixers avoided setting the record for most consecutive losses in the history of any of the four major North American sports.

Some fans began chanting, "Thank you, Detroit" with over three minutes left. After his team notched its 16th victory of the season, coach Brett Brown talked about how proud he is of not only his team, but the city of Philadelphia for sticking by the Sixers (16-57).

And he also took the time to deliver a heartfelt reminder about how the Sixers' rebuilding plans will take more time and even more patience.

"We chose a path when Sam was hired," Brown said of the team's general manager Sam Hinkie. "And some may agree with it and some may not agree with it. We are not claiming it to be the correct way to do it. But we are committed to the plan. We don't want to blink.

"And times that you have just been through, they teach you a lot about different people, how things may sound good at the start of the plan yet people get wobbly and second-guess things. We are fully committed to seeing our plan through."

Surprisingly, a city with a reputation for some of the most unforgiving fans in all of sports seems to be fine with losing nearly 60 games to rebuild through the draft and free agency.

Gina Rodriguez, a season-ticket holder during the Allen Iverson era, is willing to endure all the losses if it means getting a dynamic star to pack the house the way Iverson once did.

"We'll be fine," Rodriguez said confidently while sitting behind the basket. "I really believe that they will get some players here that all jell like that 2001 season with Allen.

"Gotta rebuild," she added. "You have to. You have no choice."

When Pat Croce was president of the Sixers, he had the fortune of winning the lottery and landing AI. The two were able to lead the Sixers to the Finals in 2000-01. But even if there were an Iverson in this summer's draft, Croce said by telephone he would never be down for purposely tanking to land the most favorable pingpong balls on his watch.

"No [f---ing] way!" said Croce, a Philadelphia native who splits time living between Philadelphia and Florida. "I had the No. 1 pick and next year, obviously, we lost [60 games in 1996-97]. Tanking? Every loss I took [f---ing] personal! No! No! No! No! I couldn't do what they did this year. That would kill me. ... I am all about carpe diem, seize the day. So now you are allowing a year to go by of your life praying that it goes by very quickly?

"Philadelphia sports fans have passion, we have a winning attitude," Croce later added. "We don't like to accept losses, even if they are planned losses."

Croce, who now is a motivational speaker and also owns several restaurants in Florida, made it clear that he hopes Hinkie and Brown can resurrect Philadelphia basketball.

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