NEW YORK - Adam Silver knows that 76ers managing owner Josh Harris has a competitive spirit.

The NBA commissioner believes Harris' comment about the team's season being a "huge success for us" was taken out of context.

Harris was ridiculed for that statement last week because the Sixers finished with a 19-63 record, suffered a record-tying 26 straight losses, and were the laughingstock of the league.

"I think what Josh was saying was in the context of building a championship team and a championship organization in Philadelphia," Silver said Thursday as he spoke to the Associated Press Sports Editors. "He saw it as a success in a continuum."

Silver pointed out that Harris mentioned how hard the mounting losses were on the owner.

"It's as painful for Josh and his family as for any longtime fan of the Sixers," the commissioner said.

Silver has defended the team's rebuilding process several times since he took office in February. As expected, the Sixers' approach to the draft lottery and tanking were hot topics during Thursday's meeting.

The Sixers sacrificed wins by fielding a subpar roster to secure a top spot in June's draft. That tactic worked. Finishing with the second-worst record, they are guaranteed a top-five pick in the May 20 draft and have a 19.9 percent chance of getting the top pick.

"Yes, it's a concern from a perception point, which is why I responded on several occasions to say that at least the way that I've always understood, tanking is the intentional losing of games either by the coach or players," Silver said. "What is going on is legitimate rebuilding of franchises. The fact that fans may see it another way is very [much a] concern to me."

But he doesn't believe that rebuilding should be a dirty word; he said it is necessary in any business.

In the NBA, however, the methods of rebuilding are often tanking for top draft picks and/or signing free agents.

"Teams have to make their own strategic decisions," Silver said. "That's not something we are looking to legislate from the league. The jury is out from a strategic standpoint whether that's the right way to build a championship team in the first place."

For the most part, Sixers fans have bought into their team's strategy. They realize that the rebuilding process will take three to five seasons.

But is that good for the NBA?

Even with the top draft picks, the Sixers are expected to struggle again next season. This season's team was the youngest squad in the history of the NBA. Next season's squad will be younger.

"I am mindful in a league full of 30 teams that we are also selling competition on a nightly basis," Silver said. "I don't want to create a sense that we want to subject our fans to subpar performances, because, 'Don't worry, it's going to be great three years from now.' "

But the Sixers will continue to sell tickets through the lean times. And the league always expects to see a competitive product on the court.

So it's a balance.

"Again, I don't want to have too heavy of a hand with our teams," Silver said. "I have confidence in our teams and our owners that they are highly competitive."

@PompeyOnSixers