The bad (good?) news became official on Tuesday night, per CBS Sports' Eye on Basketball official Twitter account:
The Philadelphia 76ers have mercifully been eliminated from playoff contention.— Eye on Basketball (@EyeOnBasketball) March 19, 2014
That's right, Sixers fans: The team doesn't even have to play to lose these days! Though Philly had the night off, they clinched a berth in the lottery thanks to the Atlanta Hawks' 118-113 win over the Toronto Raptors.
The Sixers became the second Eastern Conference team eliminated from playoff contention; their bitter rivals for the league's worst overall record, the Milwaukee Bucks, already cashed their ticket to the lottery. Three Western teams with superior records—the Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz—have already been eliminated due to the massive imbalance in records at the top of that conference.
If there's one bit of good news for those Philly fans who remember their loss at the hands of the Lakers in the 2001 NBA Finals, it is that they stayed in the playoff hunt just a bit longer than L.A.
The Sixers are barely a functioning basketball team at this point, having lost their past 21 games in a row. They broke the 40-year-old franchise record with their 21st loss on Monday to the Indiana Pacers. They are five losses away from tying the NBA record of 26 consecutive losses, set in 2010 by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Head coach Brett Brown even went as far as saying that any Sixers win before the end of the season would count as an upset, per CSN Philly's Dei Lynam:
Any win the Sixers get at this stage would definitely be an upset Brett Brown said with his team on a 19 game losing streak. SixersTalk— Dei Lynam (@dlynamCSN) March 15, 2014
Of course, losses are probably part of the long-term strategy in Philadelphia. And the very fact that this organization has a concrete plan, and this losing serves a greater purpose, should count for something, as Bleacher Report's Jim Cavan pointed out:
Make no mistake: Philadelphia is quite terrible. And the team may have the worst roster in recent memory.
But having the worst roster is not the same thing as having the worst team. A roster is merely a list of names on a ledger, along with all of the baggage (basketball or otherwise) that come along with them.
A team, on the other hand, is what a coach—and to a lesser extent, the front office, fans and various other extracurricular forces—makes of said roster.
The fans in Philadelphia can still look forward to Michael Carter-Williams' stretch run toward the Rookie of the Year award, and perhaps even the debut of Nerlens Noel, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2013 draft. And they are all but guaranteed a top-five pick in 2014. That is a lot to look forward to, even if there will be no postseason in Philadelphia.