The 76ers play tough and have compiled a handful of unexpected wins lately.Getty Images

When it’s game time, the opposition wants to crush the 76ers.

 

That’s the competitive edge all NBA players possess.

 

When the final buzzer sounds, the opposition sympathizes with the Sixers.

 

That’s the human side.

 

The Sixers have struggled to a 7-30 record – only Minnesota and New York have fewer wins – and the marathon has a long way to go.

 

Even through the mountain of defeats, opposing players continue to be impressed by how hard the Sixers are playing each night.

“We talked about that in our meeting,” said Atlanta Hawks guard Kyle Korver, an ex-Sixer. “They have a bunch of young, hungry players who are bringing it every night. You have to be ready to face them. They’re going to run, run and run some more. You have to admire how they’ve come together in a tough season.”

After an 0-17 start, the Sixers have gone 7-13. Some of those losses were close like the one against the Memphis Grizzlies earlier this season.

The Grizzlies could contend for a championship.

“You can see how hard they’re playing and it was tough for us,” said Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley, who knocked in a tough 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime. “They play so hard and never give up. We just made a few plays we needed at the end. We were fortunate. I was so impressed with how they competed.”

Players around the league have echoed similar thoughts about the Sixers this season.

“They are playing for coach (Brett) Brown and that’s great because coach is the person and coach that he is,” San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. “Coach Brown is a wonderful person and an outstanding coach. The Sixers look to me like they’re giving everything and that’s all you can ask for. I was impressed with how they played.”

“I’d much rather be on this side of winning, but as a competitor, you have to feel for them,” added Hawks forward Elton Brand, another former Sixer. “When we’re playing, you want to beat them. I like being on this end of things. It must be tough. They’re playing hard and bringing effort. You can see that.”

There’s no reason to believe the Sixers won’t maintain their work ethic for the rest of the season.

Opposing teams sure believe it.

“It seems like they always give us fits whether I’m here or when I was with Miami,” said Cleveland Cavaliers guard/forward James Jones. “They play with a high motor. You have to be ready to face them.”