The Problem with Brand on the Sixers

--"Looks like there's gonna be a brawl. You going to play somethin' good?"

"Hell yeah! Rolling Stones, 'Street Fighting Man'. G-Sevvvvvvvvvvvoooooonnnnn!"

--"Uh, you just hit G8."

That's dedicated to the Philadelphia 76ers. After they signed PF Elton Brand last summer to a 5-year, $80 million contract, GM Ed Stefanski had this to say (via the Associated Press):

"This guy can run," Stefanski said. "This is the prototype power forward."

"I feel even stronger and tougher once I've got Elton Brand behind me," Stefanski said. "I'd have to say, yes, we have closed the gap."

Uh, you hit G8, bro. Elton Brand has been consistently solid--if unspectacular--throughout his career, but this signing was doomed from the start. Not only was Brand coming off a season-ending injury, but the Sixers were inviting all sorts of negative karma by signing a guy who'd previously promised the Clippers and Baron Davis he'd re-sign with Los Angeles. So, let's see... Injury-prone power forward + bad karma ... yup, that makes for a season-ending ACL injury.

But what's obscured by the Brand injury last year is that he wasn't a great fit for them, anyway. The Sixers were 12-17 with Brand in the lineup, and the team lacked any true identity. They'd come on strong toward the end of 2008 and in the '08 playoffs thanks to a collection of freakishly talented wings running breakneck up-and-down the court, and the two Andres--Iguodala and Miller--orchestrating the madness.They weren't going to challenge anyone for the title, but they could compete with some of the league's teams, as they showed in pushing Detroit to six games in the '08 first round. In terms of a team biding its team until a franchise player can take them to the next level, that's not a bad group to tread water with.

With Brand, I guess they thought they'd found that franchise player. And they would have a half-court option to augment their fast break. But Instead, they had an $80 million albatross, and a team that had been so good--and so, so much fun to watch--at pushing the pace was suddenly anchored in the halfcourt. So much for "closing the gap" on the Eastern Conference elite.

Instead of embracing what had worked so well for them toward the end of '08, the Sixers anxiously snatched whatever big name they could, and ended up handicapping themselves with a bloated contract and an injured star that didn't fit their personnel. If you like pina coladas! Gettin caught in the rain!

HOWEVER: Eddie Jordan could change all of this. With Jordan at the helm, the Sixers have a coach who'll do a better job at integrating the varied talents of his personnel, and he might just be the ingredient Philadelphia needs to reinvigorate Brand. SBN's Liberty Ballers alludes to this in their preview:

1) The Sixers are not a better team without Elton Brand. He wasn't 100% healthy last season, and never had a coach who knew how to use him. This season will be different. Don't expect 20-10 Elton, because that isn't what the team needs from him. His presence will be felt on defense and on the boards.

Indeed, if the Sixers can find a way to utilize Brand's presence on the boards and still maintain their pace, they're a better team with him. But his defense isn't that great, and I still say, we're talking about a team who decided to anchor its future around Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand as its franchise players. Both are nice players, but particularly given the price tag for Brand, it just doesn't make sense.

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