CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Charlotte Hornets fans may be surprised when they get their first glimpse at the 76ers.

The Sixers won't carry themselves like an 18-58 team once they step on the floor for Saturday's game at Time Warner Cable Arena.

Rookies JaKarr Sampson and Glenn Robinson III may even have an impromptu slam dunk contest during warm-ups. And the fans will be sure to see a close-knit group that plays hard and enjoying the moment.

"I'm proud of our guys for staying together with some of the cornerstones that we set with [the] start of the year is sort of a compass," coach Brett Brown said.

The Sixers went into the season with the goal of being a fierce defensive team under all circumstances. Accomplishing that goal regardless of a revolving door roster wasn't easy.

Through it all, rookie center Nerlens Noel has developed into the team's unquestioned leader. Jerami Grant has turned out to be a steal of a second-round pick. And undrafted rookie, Sampson, has value.

Like their teammates, all three have played with energy and defensive intensity foreign to squads who have lost 76.3 percent of their games.

But the Sixers are first in the NBA in steals (9.78 per game), second in turnovers forced (16.9), fourth in blocks (5.96), 11th (1.007) in defensive efficiency.

"Think of that," Brown said of being ranked 11th in defensive efficiency. "To hold that trophy at this stage of the year and to have only win 18 games.

"But you still find a toughness and the ability to defend. We hung our hat on that and they delivered on that."

Canaan sidelined

Reserve point guard Isaiah Canaan has a sprained right foot. He won't play against the Hornets or the New York Knicks on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

Canaan suffered the injury with about 4 minutes, 44 seconds left in Wednesday's loss to the Washington Wizards. The Sixers originally believed he sprained his right ankle.The 6-foot, 188-pounder finished with 18 points and was on crutches after the game.

Canaan is averaging 12.6 points, 3.1 assists and 2.5 rebounds after the Sixers acquired him and a second-round pick in a trade for K.J. McDaniels on Feb. 19.