SAN ANTONIO - Gregg Popovich called close friend and former assistant Brett Brown the most positive person he knows. Then the San Antonio Spurs coach admitted that he couldn't hold Brown's job as the 76ers coach.
"I'd last about a month," Popovich said. "And he, honest to God, loves coaching that team."
Leading a franchise for a third consecutive tanking season has indeed been a tough task for Brown.
Hours after Popovich's comments, the undermanned Spurs held off the Sixers, 92-83, Saturday night at the AT&T Center.
The defeat kept the Sixers winless through 10 games for the second straight season. Last year's squad started 0-17. The record for the most consecutive losses to start a season is 18 by the New Jersey Nets in 2009-10.
Saturday's loss also extended three other skids:
The Sixers tied the second-longest losing streak in franchise history, with 20 straight losses dating back to March 27. They dropped 20 consecutive games from Jan. 9 to Feb. 11, 1973.
This loss marked their 12th straight defeat to the Spurs in San Antonio.
It was also their eighth straight defeat overall to the five-time NBA champions.
The Spurs (7-2) did just enough to win while playing without standouts Manu Ginobili (adductor strain) and forward Kawhi Leonard (upper respiratory infection).
Tony Parker finished with 16 points in 25 minutes, LaMarcus Aldridge had 17 points and 19 rebounds, while Tim Duncan added 15 points and five blocks.
Sixers rookie Jahlil Okafor finished with a game-high 21 points, 12 rebounds, and 2 blocks in what was a solid bounce-back game. The center was held to a career-low six points against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday.
It was a special night for Okafor, because he got to face Duncan.
"It's a surreal feeling, [his] being a guy that you idolized growing up," the 19-year-old Okafor said. "We are in the locker room drawing up the game plan [before the game], and you see who's guarding who, and you see Duncan, and you see me saying: 'I'm going to be sticking with him.' It was a weird feeling knowing that's somebody I idolized."
The two laughed at times during the game. They also met before the game, at Brown's suggestion.
"I already knew he was a great basketball player and how great of a person he is," Okafor said. "It was just really an honor to talk to him today, and he was really great about it, me being a big fan of his."
Nik Stauskas was held scoreless on 0-for-6 shooting, including missing all three of his three-point attempts.
"They're great looks," said Staukas, who is in a shooting slump. "I thought I prepared myself well all summer . . . I worked hard, but it is just not showing."
Brown spent 12 seasons in San Antonio and was a part of four championship teams before taking the Sixers job in August 2013.
Things have been tough to watch in Philly, where he has compiled a 37-137 career record as the franchise is in its third season of sacrificing wins.
Going back to San Antonio to face the Spurs reminded him of what he wants in Philadelphia.
"You get a little bit jealous," Brown said. "You want what they have. What they have has taken time. The culture that they have built is amazing."
It's going to take perhaps even more time than he will be afforded to turn things around with the Sixers. That led to his being asked whether he regrets leaving the Spurs to take over the Sixers.