Elton Brand Takes Reflective View on Rebuilding in Philadelphia
Now he just envies the other three.
The NBA isn't always fair.
While Hamilton won his championship in Detroit -- and almost won two -- Odom and Artest in Los Angeles are expecting to add more to the ones they already own, leaving Brand with his face just pressed against the window, wondering how a guy who does things so right had gone so wrong.
Brand remains in Philadelphia, once again the best player and leader on yet another rebuilding project, leaving him with no realistic hopes of being anything but average.
Soon to be 32, in his 12th NBA season, Brand realizes that time is running out.
"Of course, I'd love to be part of a championship team, at least an opportunity to go deep in the playoffs,'' Brand told FanHouse Wednesday before his 76ers played the Magic. "I played AAU ball with those guys (Odom, Artest), and to see them win championships, contend every year, I'm very envious. That's what I used to dream about. I guess I just picked a different path.''
Brand actually is considerably more upbeat this season, content again after suffering through two bad seasons in Philly, first wracked by injury, then saddled by a system that played against all his strengths.
"I've had some tough times in the NBA, but the last couple seasons were the most frustrating, the worst times of my career,'' he said. "Mentally, it was a drain.''
Unlike past No. 1 picks like Kwame Brown, Kenyon Martin or Michael Olowokandi, who just weren't good or motivated enough, Brand has been well respected everywhere he has been.
He averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds in his first two seasons in Chicago, but the Bulls were dreadful in the post-Jordan era, winning just 17 and 15 games, respectively. He was traded to the dead-end Clippers, where he spent the next six seasons, becoming an All-Star twice as a model of consistency and a 20-point, 10-rebound average.
The Clippers, though, reached the playoffs only once, and he finally left them behind, finding free-agent riches in Philadelphia, where he joined a veteran team preparing to become a serious contender.
But the bottom fell out. A torn Achilles tendon in his final year in LA, then a dislocated shoulder in his first year in Philadelphia, robbed him of two years. As an undersized power forward (6-foot-8, 265 pounds), he lost the explosiveness that once made him so good.
"I saw Garnett go from the West (Minnesota) to East and win a championship. You think about those things,'' he said. "When I came to Philadelphia, it was veteran laden, guys like Andre Miller, Theo Ratliff. It was a team ready to make a push, but things kind of fell apart.''
The Sixers (17-23) have been playing well lately, going 14-10 after their 3-13 start. If the playoffs started today, they would be included, making them the youngest team in the East.
They are building a team around their budding backcourt of Jrue Holiday (20) and Evan Turner (22). Also playing prominent roles are starting center Spencer Hawes (22) and Thadeus Young (22). The Sixers have eight players on the roster -- seven in the regular rotation -- who are 24 or younger.
Yet it's Brand who is leading the Sixers in scoring (14.9 ppg), rebounding (8.7 rpg) and blocked shots (1.15 bpg). He is shooting 51.8 percent from the field. He already has 15 double-doubles this season, compared to just seven all of last season.
"We might not be ready to win an NBA championship with Elton, but it's a feather in his cap if he gets us to the playoffs,'' said Sixers coach Doug Collins. "We're trying to build something, and he's such a great example (for the young guys). Every single night, he brings his lunch pail to work. He's blue collar, and he epitomizes Philadelphia as a city. He's a proud man, and it's been tough on him (the last couple years), but he's there for us every night.''
The last time the Sixers played Orlando, Brand was key in the victory, getting 20 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots. It was Brand who had 13 points, 13 rebounds and five blocked shots in Monday's victory over Charlotte. He is a big reason why, after a dreadful start, they will contend for a playoff spot.
Although there was speculation that the Sixers might move him before the trade deadline -- freeing salary cap space for this summer -- his contract makes any move difficult. He has two years and $35 million remaining after this season. And Collins loves the example he sets for the younger guys.
"You can never be sure in this business (if you'll be traded), but I expect to be in Philadelphia,'' Brand said. "It can be frustrating at times with a young team, but I like what they're doing. I'm content with my teammates. I might not be around as long as some of these guys, but we're getting better and working harder. And that counts for something.''