On Saturday (24th January 2009), the Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Knicks by a score of 116-110. During the first quarter, when the balance time was 1:26, Elton Brand went on court and immediately, Andre Iguodala missed a free throw. Although, this was merely a coincidence, the observers of the game were reminded of the fact that the team has been playing better in the absence of Brand than when he was present. >
Evidence against Brand
About 5.5 weeks back, Brand had dislocated his shoulder and had to stay away from the action. The 76ers had a record of 11-14 just when Brand was injured. At this juncture, they had also fired Maurice Cheeks, the head coach. While Brand was away due to injury, the 76ers were an improved offensive group and had a record of 10-7. Thus, it can be easily concluded that Brand’s style of play is not favorable for the other players, who are more aggressive when he is out. On 24th January, when Brand was sent in to play, the 76ers were leading by 34-22. Out of their first 23 shots, they had connected 15. When Brand was on the court, their offense became slightly stagnant. The ball movement was reduced and the penetration was less. The team scored 28 points in 26 possessions. Thus, there were 1.08 points per possession with Brand on the floor. While Brand was on the bench, there were 65 possessions and 88 points were made. This indicates 1.35 points per possession. Thaddeus Young and Iguodala frequently drove to the basket and the 76ers accrued 54 points. In this match, Brand played for 13 minutes and accumulated 6 points, 3 boards and 2 blocks. However, if the entire game was considered, the 76ers were +14 when he was on the bench and -8 when he was on the court. >
However, one should not estimate a player on the basis of one match. After all as Brand has not played the game for more than one month, he is not in basketball shape. Tony DiLeo, the coach of the 76ers, remarked that this game was not the ideal one to bring Brand back. However, it was thought that this game was a good occasion to get him on court.
In the absence of Brand, the 76ers have won 7 out of their previous 8 games. Now, the intention of the team in bringing Brand back is to continue playing the way they have done without him and meanwhile permitting him to get his rhythm back. Brand commented that the team appeared different from what it was in the past. The players had a lot of confidence. The offensive nature of the guys offers them several chances to use their tools and the team has been playing well. He was simply joyous to be part of the team.
On 24th January, the 76ers played against a roster that had more issues than their team. Both the 76ers and Brand were fortunate that the team won. However, the question whether the 76ers can win in the presence of Brand is unanswered although half the season is over.