Elton Brand No Longer Fits in Philly
Yet he also is beginning to look like an albatross hanging around the neck of the Philadelphia 76ers, the guy with the contract that will prevent them from building a serious contender in the coming years.
Brand, 30, is starting his 10th season in the league, but just the second year of that five-year, $80 million contract he signed as a free agent two summers ago. Although the Sixers were convinced that signing him was wise back then, they are having serious reservations now about the move.
It's one painful decision they would like to have back.
In Philadelphia's opening night game Wednesday in Orlando, Brand looked like a car with too many miles on the tires. Injuries have robbed him of the power and athleticism that once made him so attractive.
Brand played only nine games in 2007-08, his last with the Clippers, after tearing his Achilles tendon. He played only 29 last season, his first in Philly, before leaving with a serious shoulder injury that required surgery.
"Sure, I feel like I have something to prove, to our organization, our fans, to my teammates, to myself,'' Brand told FanHouse on Wednesday. "Every night I have something to prove. I feel good, but after 10 years, not everything comes back.''
Before he joined the Sixers, he was averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds during his career, which is why he looked so appealing in the free agent market. The way he looked on opening night, though, he couldn't average 20 points and 10 rebounds this season in his dreams.
With new coach Eddie Jordan, the Sixers are not running the post-up type of offense that Brand once thrived in when he played with the Clippers. Trying to fit Brand into Jordan's Princeton offense didn't look like much of a fit at all.
It's a system that will be great for players like Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams, but not for Brand, who must try to adapt his game to fit alongside the others.
He looked awkward and out of place. He also didn't look as physically strong or as quick as he once was. Always a little undersized around the basket, he looked completely overmatched with Orlando's Dwight Howard in the vicinity. The erosion of his skills now makes him look very average.
He had eight points and six rebounds in 31 minutes, which wouldn't be bad if he were a role player making $3 million this season. But he's not. He is a $15 million player. He is a two-time All-Star and former Rookie of the Year (2000).
His drain on the salary cap wouldn't be bad if he were a dominating player again. But now his long-term contract makes him virtually untradeable, and he will prevent the Sixers from adding other key pieces in the coming years.
"I'm going to be disappointed if I have to look back and say 'man, I didn't accomplish what I set out to do in Philadelphia,''' he said. "That would be a huge disappointment. I still think we can build a contender. I want to be a big part of that.''
After talking to Brand, you want to root for him to succeed. It just doesn't look realistic anymore.