We Reminisce: Elton Brand’s Lost Season

We take enough shots at the Clippers. When you have a racist owner – someone who heckles his own star players – then you deserve it. But we can still show love to perhaps the only good thing L.A.’s JV team has done in the past 20 years outside of drafting Blake Griffin. Elton Brand might’ve had all of Philly ready to sucker punch him these past three years, but during the 2005-06 season, he was a fantasy kingpin. 24.7 points a night. 10 boards. 2.5 blocks every game. Those are Tim Duncan numbers. Those are “get on my back” numbers. Those are “I’m blowing up in the world” numbers.

The greatest accomplishment of Brand’s career – turning the Clippers, if for only one year, into a viable NBA contender – promised so much more from him. Instead, the curse of the Clippers proved too elusive to tackle.

We can talk all day long about how Brand went from an MVP candidate to an injured star to the posterboy for a bumbling 76ers squad within just two years. But that’ll just make us more depressed, and if we start getting all gloomy right now (the lockout already has us all teetering on the edge), then someone might drown in their tears.

F— who’s the baddest / a person’s status depends on salary

Even before Brand signed for five years and $80 million with Philly, he was never considered one of the very elite power forwards. There’s a difference between “All-Star” and Kevin Garnett, and Brand was always caught somewhere in-between. But he put the full package together in 2005-06, averaging career highs in virtually every category and in the playoffs, Brand was even better. As the Clippers came within one Daniel Ewing substitution from the Western Conference Finals, Brand upped his numbers to 25.4 points, 10.3 boards and even four dimes a night, all in over 43 minutes a game.

Against Phoenix in the second round – the series that proved to be the climax for this Clipper team – Brand played like perhaps the best player in the world. That’s not even an overstatement. Of course, the Suns’ defense could turn Rasho Nesterovic into a Hall of Famer, but Brand hit them with so many spins and jump hooks, spot-up Js and pump fakes and buckets that he made even Mike Dunleavy look smart. Check out his numbers through the series’ seven games:

Game 1: 18-22, 40 points, nine rebounds, four blocks
Game 2: 10-16, 27 points, 10 rebounds
Game 3: 20 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, five blocks
Game 4: 30 points, nine rebounds, eight assists
Game 5: 54 minutes, 33 points, 15 rebounds, five assists, five blocks
Game 6: 14-21, 30 points, 12 rebounds, five blocks
Game 7: 36 points, nine rebounds

Unbelievably, of the 91 games he played that season, Brand scored at least 15 in 85 of them and he never once failed to hit double figures. He was a machine inside, and by April had the Clippers believing.

It’s easy to say now that money and injuries changed him, that once he hit 30, his lifetime as a big-time basketball player was over. That could be true. But for one stretch, Brand played like one of the greatest power forwards of this generation, and sent the ghosts of the Clippers sprawling.

What do you remember about that year from Brand and the Clippers?

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