Rome wasn't built in a day.

The old adage is meant to serve as a reminder about the time that it takes to build something truly great. The Eternal City didn't start off as the marvelous city of marble and power that we now know today. It didn't start off as the center of the ancient world, but as a tiny farming village on the banks of the Tiber river.

It's easy to look at something great, such as the Spurs, perhaps the greatest achievement of sustained team success in modern sports, and see only what it is, losing sight of the amount of effort, and time, required to get to that point.

Sure, the path for the Spurs was shorter than the one the Sixers hope to take, jump-started by injuries which placed an already good Spurs team artificially high up in a lottery that had one of the best players of his, or any, generation. Before the game, Popovich joked that, before dinner, "the first thing I say is 'Thank you Timmy', and then I have my dinner."

But what the Sixers are looking to build, through a mix of talent and culture, through hard work and good habits, was visible in the opponents locker room, even if the road to get there is painstakingly long.

The two teams have been linked for a myriad of reasons, including the Sixers investment in big men through two top draft picks. Most notably, it's the link between Sixers head coach Brett Brown and the Spurs, where he served as an assistant coach for 15 seasons, that ties them together.

The two still remain close. According to Popovich, he went on a walk with Brown yesterday, jokingly bemoaning that he "had to listen to [Brown] for an hour and a half."

"Well, I mean, you can probably figure out my answer and just write whatever you want. I'll say I said it, I don't care," Popovich jokingly said when asked what advice he gave to Brown when discussing the Sixers job opening

"He's a mench," Spurs coach Greg Popovich said about Brown before the game. "To go through what he's doing on a day to day basis is obviously beyond difficult. I wouldn't wish it on anybody. But if somebody's got to do it, he's the perfect guy.

"He is one of the most upbeat, positive individuals I've ever been around," Popovich said when describing his former pupil. "He's got great fiber. He's going to wake up every morning, go into work teaching, doing what needs to be done, because he knows what needs to be done to build a program."

Listening to him talk, it sounds almost like the exact same message Brown has been sending since he got here, which should surprise nobody.

"You guys might measure [the season] in wins and losses at times, but that's really got nothing to do with it," Popovich said. "It's building a base in a million different ways, that's got nothing to do with [immediate wins and losses], and he'll be great at it."

Popovich, who went 17-45 after taking over for Bob Hill during the 1996-97 season, described what Brown must be going through as unimaginably difficult.

"I mean, we've been fairly successful, and if we lose two in a row I'm thinking about how to build the confidence of the players back up. That's the truth," Popovich said. "You've got to constantly make sure that you're polishing: like cleanup, paint up, fix up. All the time. It was difficult, and this is like an unimaginable difficulty."

"Locker rooms can get chaotic, training sessions are taken for granted, losing becomes a real illness," Brown said about lessons he learned from Popovich's experience in that 17-45 season. "Lessons like that he shared with me all the time, especially as I'm personally going through trying to rebuild this proud franchise, to get it back to a level of respectability, and beyond."

Is what the Sixers are doing bad for the league, as many pundits, and coaches, have said over the past year?