Let’s be honest here, outside of the effort Philadunkia’s home team put in against a disinterested Lakers squad this past Friday night, the 76ers were pretty horrific on their latest west coast swing.
However there was one thing that occurred during this four game stretch that was more disturbing to us then the poor defense shown in the blowout loss to Chicago; or blowing a 23 point lead vs. Golden State; or the ridiculous coaching decision made vs. the Phoenix Suns. We’ve seen those issues pop up before during the 2009-10 season, so we are equipped to deal with those Sixer ills. The one item that has us searching for answers over the last four games is the suddenly poor play of Elton Brand.
There’s no doubt that Elton struggled out of the gates this season. One could argue that his struggles were directly related to the fact that Eddie Jordan was not playing and we would not call you crazy. Of course Jordan will counter with the notion that Brand was not getting PT because his legs weren’t under him or that he was still recovering from last season’s injuries. Where ever the blame lies, let’s just agree that Brand was off his game early on.
However, in December we started to see flashes of his once All-Star skills. In the final month of 2009, there was the 23 & 9 effort vs. Boston; the double-double (18 & 12) vs. Washington; and the 25 & 9 night at Portland which gaves us hope that someday we would see the skills of the Elton Brand who dominatd the Western Conference from 2001-02 through 2006-07.
Brand’s solid play continued through the New Year into mid-January and towards the end of January we felt Brand may have discovered his former All-Star level game for real. The Sixers must have agreed with us to some extent, because there was a very noticeable change in the direction of the team. Brand’s playing time increased significantly, they began relying heavily on Brand to get buckets as well as to initiate their offensive sets and Jordan even had some complimentary things to say about Brand. The last item would never have happened in November or December.
From January 23rd to February 19th (12 games), EB was receiving 35+ minutes a game and posting 16.5 points and 6.9 rips per night. Brand had some big games in that stretch that reminded us of his glory days in a Clipper uniform – 23 & 8 vs. Indiana; a 26 & 10 double-double vs. the surging Bucks; hitting for 19 & 9 vs. the Lakers talented trio of seven-footers; racking up 26 & 9 against the Bulls and posting 21 & 7 vs. the T-Wolves. During Brand’s hot stretch, the Sixers were 7-5 including wins over Chicago, New Orleans (without CP3), Houston and San Antonio. It brought us great joy that Brand was finally coming close to earning the “Philly Max” contract worth over $80 million that he received two years ago.
However, something happened to Elton Brand on this recent road trip as he was a shell of the player we had seen from mid-January to mid-February. Take a look at Brand’s numbers from the recent four game west coast swing — 28+ minutes per night ; 7.75 ppg. on 30.7% shooting from the field and 6.25 rpg. If you analyze his numbers from the last four games a little closer, you’ll find two disturbing items –
- Brand did not rebound the ball. His average on the road trip is very deceiving as Brand yanked down 13 in the first game of the road trip against Chicago, then failed to grab more then 5 in any of the three following games.
- Brand’s trips to the FT line were way down. He only attempted 12 FTs in the last four games. In the game vs. GSW, EB was 0-1 on FTAs and against the Lakers, Brand did not make a single appearance at the charity stripe. For a low post player who can shoot the jumper, but also likes to bull his way to the tin, those numbers are very hard to believe.
But, this Brand dilemma is more then a numbers thing. At times, Brand has looked old and tired as he did back in November and while he has never recovered his hops after the Achilles tendon injury, his inability elevate hit an all-time low over the last four games. In our opinion, Brand has also settled for significantly more jump shots then he did during his month long hot stretch, which saw Brand frequently driving the ball to the cup. This evidence could indicate that with 54 games of wear and tear on his body Brand is simply worn out. After all he has not played in more then 29 games in a season since 2006-07.
We also know that Brand is very frustrated with Eddie Jordan use of his skills and in general does not appear to be a big fan of Jordan’s coaching. So the other possibile explanation for the dip in Brand’s play is that the Sixers very poor game in Chicago multiplied by his issues with Jordan sent Brand into a funk that lasted for the remainder of the road trip. If you read into Brand’s body language, facial expressions and post game quotes, this could be a very real possibility. Our fear is that Jordan has lost Brand completely and that we won’t see a return of the EB who was borderline dominant from mid-January to mid-February of this season until 2010-11.
It coul be that Brand’s recent slide was caused by a combination of the above items, we’ll probably never know for sure.
Whatever the reason for Brand’s recent four game slide, we obviously hope he shakes out of it tonight vs. Orlando.**
**(We have now learned that Brand was sidelined for Sunday’s practice because of right calf soreness, an injury that he claims has been bothering him since the San Antonio game. He admitted trying to play through his pain on the latets road trip saying, “I think it was the San Antonio game that I kind of felt funny but I kept just trying to work through it. I definitely don’t want to miss any games so I am going to play through it for sure.” We’re not saying it’s a cover-up for Brand’s poor play or that Brand is not hurt, but it’s hard to believe a strained calf could alter Brand’s play so drastically. #42 is listed as day to day, but arent’ we all.)