Brett Brown needs to chill.
The 76ers coach needs to take a moment to reflect on how far the franchise has come since the start of the 2013-14 season. Yet Brown will say only that “we have so much more to give” whenever someone asks about his team’s surpassing the 40-win plateau.
We all know the Sixers remain steps away from seriously contending for an NBA title. But they are much farther along than they were expected to be.
Think back to March 24, 2014 — exactly four years ago Saturday. The Sixers suffered a 113-91 road loss to the shorthanded San Antonio Spurs. It was their 25th consecutive loss. Two days later, they made history, matching the record for consecutive losses by a U.S. professional team with their 26th defeat, 120-98 throwdown in Houston.
The Sixers equaled the run of futility established by the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1976 and 1977 seasons and by the Cleveland Cavaliers, who set an NBA mark with 26 straight losses during the 2010-11 season.
But that wasn’t rock bottom for Brown’s Sixers.
After losing their last 10 games of the 2014-15 season, the Sixers began the 2015-16 campaign by dropping their first 18 games to establish an NBA-record 28-game losing streak. They would go on to lose 29 of their first 30 games en route to a 10-72 record. It was the second-worst record in franchise and NBA history. The 1972-73 were worse at 9-73.
Nowadays, the 10-72 campaign and 28-game losing streak seem like distant memories. The Sixers, after beating the Minnesota Timberwolves, 120-108, on Saturday are 42-30 and have the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference.
“This isn’t what interests me,” Brown said. “In relation to ‘Oh, we made the playoffs,’ we all get greedy. We all want more.”
By now, a lot of fans are aware of the Sixers’ goal to finish with a top-four spot to get home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
“I want more than [40-something wins],” Brown said. “I want to coach my players to truly think that way, too. That’s truly where my head is at.”
That’s to be expected.
But Brown has to have some delight in seeing the Sixers go from laughingstock of the league to a must-see team.
It wasn’t long ago that fans laughed at the Sixers and couldn’t recognize any of their players. These days, Joel Embiid’s No. 21 and Ben Simmons’ No. 25 jerseys are visible on the road. So are Sixers fans, who chant “Trust the Process” and “E-A-G-L-E-S!” in foreign arenas.
To his credit, Brown is far from being complacent. That’s a good thing.
“If they can arrive at the playoffs healthy, cocky, and with their spirits up, and if they are playing good basketball,” Brown said, “I like our chances.”
Making it to the second round is not out of the question if the Sixers are able to get solid bench play.
That’s why the notion of making the playoffs doesn’t make Brown want to do somersaults.
But he should at least be celebrating, even if it’s behind closed doors with his coaching staff.
The dark days of “The Process” are over.