EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - In the throes of their own disappointing season, the 76ers are doing their part to possibly erase a legendarily bad franchise predecessor from the NBA record book.

With last night's plug-ugly, 83-79 squeaker over the New Jersey Nets at IZOD Arena, the Sixers improved to 16-31 and, perhaps more important, plunged the host team to 4-42. Three of the Sixers' 16 wins are against the Nets.

The 1972-73 Sixers stumbled and bumbled to a 9-73 record, the worst in NBA history. With their most recent loss, the Nets matched those Sixers, the 1997-98 Denver Nuggers and 1993-94 Dallas Mavericks for the worst 46-game record ever by an NBA team.

At their present rate, the Nets would finish 7-75.

"Nobody wants to go down in history as having the worst record ever," said Nets guard Keyon Dooling, a 9-year veteran who scored 13 points in another losing effort. "That'd be a stain on all of our resumes - a bad stain, a stain you don't want to have."

Well, maybe one former player can still draw satisfaction from having been on a team that was bad to the bone. Former Sixers coach Fred Carter was the leading scorer for those '72-73 Sixers, and he apparently wants to hang on to his little piece of notoriety as badly as the 1972 Miami Dolphins - the only NFL team to have gone undefeated and untied through an entire season - want to hang onto their more illustrious slice of history.

"I don't know," Sixers assistant coach Jim Lynam said when asked if Carter and his old teammates want to finally get off the schneid. "I've heard Freddie say that even though it's infamy, he'll stay with [the record]. They've hung with it this long."

These Nets, injury-riddled at the beginning of the season, got out of the blocks 0-18. On Nov. 29, with the team 0-16, head coach Lawrence Frank was made the scapegoat for the downward spiral and was replaced by interim coach Kiki Vandeweghe.

Vandeweghe hasn't had much success turning things around, and he still has injury issues. Star point guard Devin Harris, who bedeviled the Sixers last season as New Jersey won all four meetings between the teams, is out with a sore right wrist and is day-to-day.

During their current 1-13 stretch, the Nets have been outscored by 206 points, an average of 14.7 points per game. Nine of those losses were by double figures, including blowouts by 33, 32, 30, 24 and 24 points.

But, Lynam noted, their last two defeats were by a combined margin of six points, indicating that the Nets are closing the gap - at least on the Washington Wizards and Sixers.

"To be honest with you, I think, it's a moot point," Lynam said. "If New Jersey plays the way it has the last couple of games, they'll be fine. They won't get that record."

All Sixers forward Elton Brand knows is that he's glad his team, which snapped its own three-game losing streak, didn't fall victim to the NBA's worst bunch of 2009-10, and, maybe before it's all over, the worst ever.

"No disrespect to the Nets' franchise, but we couldn't lose this game today," Brand said. "I've been on some pretty poor teams, but none that poor. We had 18, 19 wins halfway through. They have four."

Asked how he copes with the constant beat-downs, Dooling said, "I have four beautiful children at home. Usually, I leave [a defeat] in the car. I lock it in there and go home to the family."