Elton Brand Abandons Offense in New Role
For the first time in his career, Elton Brand is not averaging double-figures in scoring, and he’s missing that mark by a significant margin. His 6.3 points per game is just a little over one-third of his career average, and his 6.1 rebounds per game ties a career-low as well.
Of course, those numbers are married to his career-low minutes, which are a little surprising considering Dirk Nowitzki’s extended absence should be providing him with more floor time rather than less. However, Brand understands that as a 14-year pro, a player’s role can change significantly over time.
“One game I might need to get 20 points and 10 rebounds. I might need to do something like that, but there might be a game where I just have to focus on defense. [The coaches] might say, ‘We need this guy stopped in the post’ or whatever. There might be a game where I just set picks, or a game where I just talk to the young guys on how to do something on the court. I think it’s a game-by-game basis this year, and I’m just looking to get some wins,” Brand said.
It’s hard to say how different Brand’s role might have been had he remained with the Philadelphia 76ers again this year, but thanks to the amnesty provision he finds himself on a Western Conference roster for the first time since leaving the Los Angeles Clippers five years ago. It wasn’t the road he would’ve chosen for himself, but Brand has been around long enough to know that sometimes players and teams inevitably part ways.
“With any job, you don’t want to get demoted or fired, so it was tough,” Brand said of getting cut loose from the Sixers over the summer. “Then with my family—my wife was pregnant, the kids didn’t know what was going on—there are times where you’re not going to know where you’re going to go.
“But it was a business thing,” Brand added. “They [Philadelphia] told me nice and early that, ‘Hey, we’ve got to do this, otherwise we can’t make any moves. We can’t sign Lou [Williams].’ They let me know what was going on, that they had until July 19 to make some moves financially. So there’s no hard feelings at all.”
Even though Philly ultimately passed on Williams, they did bring in Nick Young on a one-year deal, which afforded them better long-term financial flexibility. That’s the way the business side of this league works.
Brand himself has been on the other end of hurt feelings. He chose to leave the Clippers after seven seasons in Los Angeles for what he at the time viewed as greener pastures in Philadelphia.
However, as a rookie with the Chicago Bulls back in 1999, Brand couldn’t envision see himself being the kind of player who changed teams in his career, never mind changing on three separate occasions. Brand was planning to remain in Chicago for the duration of his career, but the Bulls dealt him to the Clippers in exchange for Brian Skinner and the draft rights to Tyson Chandler.
“I thought I’d be a Bull the whole time,” Brand admitted. “I even got my license plate changed from New York to Illinois because I thought I’d be there forever. I thought just one team, maybe two the whole time, multiple championships. That’s how you think coming in as a rookie.”
But Brand still doesn’t have his ring, and time is winding down since he’ll turn 34 years old in March. At least he’s in a situation where he’s happy late in his career, and once everybody is healthy, the Mavericks may even be a Western Conference contender.
“It’s a good fit, but I’m looking forward to Dirk getting back and making everybody’s job a lot easier,” Brand said. “I think it’s working out. This is the greatest job in the world.”
And he says that while averaging career-low numbers. Brand is the eternal optimist, and that kind of locker room presence has already fit in well with a group that’s already stacked with unselfish veterans. He’s just one more guy looking for minutes, but at his age he’s not making a stink about it. He’d rather just do what he’s asked and hope it leads to a ring.