Brand Ambassador

Associated Press

Elton Brand was last an active NBA player less than two years ago. He put up 4.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists in seventeen games, including one start, with the 2015-’16 Philadelphia 76ers, which won exactly 10 games, only one ahead of the all-time NBA record for fewest victories in an 82-game season, held by the 1972-’73 Sixers[1]. He wasn’t especially good, but neither was anybody else on that team. Shout out to leading scorer, then-rookie and soon-to-be journeyman Jahlil Okafor, for throwing up 17.5 points and seven rebounds a night; your efforts were well-regarded in Manayunk, I’m sure[2].

A native of Peekskill, New York, and well-traveled otherwise via his not-quite-journeyman-like career in the NBA, Brand would qualify as the Wooderson-like guy who has seen some things, if the NBA were a teen sex comedy. Following his retirement, the second and final he would announce, he was immediately appointed to various player development positions within the Sixers organization before, on Tuesday, being announced as Bryan Colangelo’s non-burner account replacement as Philadelphia’s general manager. By bringing in a relative veteran of The Process, this puts the fittingly weird cap on a strange but bountiful summer for a team on the cusp of Eastern Conference pre-eminence.

Personally, I’ve always liked Elton Brand, and that has as much to do with his time at Duke, whose basketball teams I’ve generally supported against my better judgment for most of my life, as it does with his time in the NBA, where he was the best part of the best pre-CP3/Blake/DAJ Clippers teams ever. He has the most pro basketball player-name since Elgin Baylor. He was stellar but misplaced on a couple of early-aughts Bulls teams and was traded for Tyson Chandler in the summer of 2001, but nothing that Jerry Reinsdorf did in between Michael Jordan and, well, Scott Skiles[3] is especially defensible.

Brand went, instead, to the Clippers, a league laughingstock that he immediately made respectable television. Even Donald Sterling, a noted-and-reprimanded racist, ponied up in 2006 to issue the biggest contract he’d ever approved to that point to Brand, a two-time All-Star and Co-Rookie of the Year who ended up on the All-NBA Second Team that year alongside the likes of – and you might want to sit down before looking up the First Team – Tim Duncan, Ben Wallace, Dwyane Wade and Chauncey Billups. Brand reeled off a 24.7/10.0/2.6/2.5 line that year, so he was more than deserving.

The upstart Clips made the playoffs, winning the opening series against the Denver Nuggets before losing in seven games to a generational Suns team in transition. His collegiate teammate Corey Maggette was the second-leading scorer on that Clippers team; in essence, Brand mattered for a team that had only made the playoffs once in the previous thirteen seasons, and only twice in a span of eighteen.

In the interim, Brand ruptured his Achilles and then showed out as a veteran presence on a number of teams, including during two stints with Philadelphia. He earned the requisite veteran respect that one needs to enter a locker room of young guns whose previous experience mostly comprises high school singular dominance and a few national TV appearances on behalf of some prominent program awkwardly adjusting to the reality that one-and-done is the way to win games and championships and elicit airmail-package booster donations. Brand was a two-and-done, for whatever that’s worth.

After this summer’s insane and unresolved Jerry Colangelo burner situation, the Sixers were surely prone to figure out something more, if not necessarily traditional, than expected. That wasn’t quite how it worked out, but given how respected Elton Brand is around the league, and given his time in the team’s pipeline over the past few years, it isn’t totally out of nowhere, either.

Until his retirement, Elton Brand was one of the league’s most respected players. No less an authority than Andre Iguodala, one of the league’s most respected players, weighed in on Tuesday with his opinion regarding the Sixers’ choice. Even with the expectation being that Brett Brown will be heavily involved in most player personnel decisions, Brand could make an impact in free agency and in player evaluation. To say that he’s seen good basketball is to completely underrate who Elton Brand is and of what he’s capable.

Whether it ends up being a good decision will manifest itself in time; mostly, this decision was met with confusion, or with varied degrees of “…I guess this is fine?” from the Sixers populace. Time will tell about the circus in this particular wishing well, but as far as having someone to toll your bell in the NBA, you could certainly do worse than Elton Brand.

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[1] In the post-ABA merger era, the 2011-’12 Charlotte Bobcats hold the record for lowest win percentage (11.9%), though the ’73 Sixers best that (11.0%). This edition of the Sixers managed to break 11% without rounding, hitting 12.2%.

[2] Nerlens Noel, currently a would-be cog in the Westbrook and George Music Festival that is the Oklahoma City Thunder, led that team in win shares with 3.0; the next-closest was Jerami Grant, who had 2.1; Okafor had 1.2. For reference, former Reno Bighorn and future Texas Legend (an actual G-League team name) Tony Wroten, err, reverse-led the team in win shares, with -0.8.

[3] Because I’m certain you’re curious: it took until 2004-’05 for the Bulls to get back to the playoffs after the final Jordan championship in 1998, and it took until 2007 for the Bulls to win a playoff series. Tyson Chandler, Chris Duhon and Luol Deng are all big parts in those facts.


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