Amid Philadelphia's Ruin, Elton Brand Bounces Back
Even worse is that instead of coming back to Philly revived after a successful World Championship run, Andre Iguodala has looked a bit disinterested, and his scoring prowess has disintegrated. Trade rumors are beginning to sprout up. Iguodala, the 76ers' top talent bar none, has been the team's star since the 2006 trade of Allen Iverson. A star defender but uneasy creator, Iguodala hasn't been able to get the team past the first round of the playoffs.
Of course, it wasn't supposed to be just Iguodala. After Philadelphia cleared Iverson and Chris Webber from the cap, it spent its space on Elton Brand, a stud power forward smack dab in his prime who had left the Clippers in a huff in 2008. Brand aimed to be what Webber couldn't: the burly, scoring power forward Iguodala, ace distributor Andre Miller and shotblocker extraordinaire Samuel Dalembert needed to get over the hump.
Brand had come off a ruptured Achilles' tendon in the 2007 offseason to sign a lucrative five-year deal with the 76ers. But injuries continued to plague the two-time All-Star; Brand played just 29 games in his first season in Philadelphia. Healthier, Brand still never looked like himself through 76 games (57 of them starts) last season under Eddie Jordan, who runs a high-post Princeton offense that proved anathema to the forward's soloist inside-out act.
Back six games into the 2010-11 season, with Jordan out, full health on the table, rust shaken off and Doug Collins at the helm, it looks like Brand is back.
E.B. has been Philadelphia's best player to date, averaging 18/8 with incredibly efficiency and, seemingly, ease. Gone are the labored possessions ending with weak attempts falling off the rim. Gone are the frustrated glances to the sidelines or backcourt teammates. We're seeing the Elton Brand we used to know, the one we've been missing since 2007.
Will it last? Negativity has a way of spreading, and the team as a whole is in the dumps with relief looking unlikely in the near-term. Without Iguodala getting back on the horse, the 76ers are toast. But at least Brand is smooth as he once was, just in case the team can turn it around and make up for lost time.