Just weeks before the start of training camp, I traveled to Philly to interview Elton Brand. Back then, he was all smiles and optimistic for the upcoming season. He had trained all summer in L.A. and was healthy for the first time in two years. His Sixers were a playoff team the year before without him and he figured he’d be that missing piece to get the Sixers out of the first round.
Now, some three months after I talked to him from the Sixers’ practice facility, Brand is anything but smiles. At 6-19, the Sixers seem to be light years away from a playoff berth. EB is having his worst statistical season as a pro: 12.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.4 bpg and 1.2 apg (all career lows). And the worst part about it, is Brand is no longer starting. The $80 million franchise player has officially been replaced in the starting lineup by Jrue Holiday, a 19-year-old rookie averaging 5.9 ppg and 2.7 apg.
Brand has not been shy about voicing his displeasure about not starting. After playing just 17 minutes in a game last week against Golden State, Brand took out his frustrations on his former teammate Mikki Moore, who had been starting for the Warriors this season.
“No disrespect, but [Golden State center] Mikki Moore, he gets to start and I don’t?” Brand told the media.
Coach Eddie Jordan has been upset with Brand’s production, especially his inability to dominate in the paint like he used to. With the Sixers losing 15 of their last 17 games, the pressure on Jordan to start getting wins is mounting by the day. Coach has started to experiment with a smaller lineup that caters to Andre Iguodala and Allen Iverson. But even if he switches back to a slower paced, half-court offense, he might opt to go with the younger Marreese Speights over Brand.
The reality of the situation is this: Brand doesn’t fit in well with this team and a move would be the best solution. There have been many rumors in the past month saying the Sixers are aggressively shopping the former two-time All-Star. The problem is getting takers. The demand for a 12 and 7, injury-prone power forward with a huge, long-term contract, isn’t exactly sky high. So the Sixers and Brand may be forced to make the best of the situation and find a solution.
Despite being unhappy, Brand vows to stay professional. For now.
“With my temperament, after losing so many games, I just want to win,” said Brand, who said he expects to continue in a reserve role. “Jordan knows I’m not going to not be professional and be a detriment to the team.”