Deep Sixer: FanHouse Catches Up With Philadelphia's Elton Brand

Is Elton Brand one of the NBA's good guys? Yeah, of course. More than just his massive skills in the low post, there's a reason why the 76ers were quick to fork over $80 million-plus to bring him to Philly. Brand's smart, personable and genuinely a nice person. Perfect "face of the franchise" material, hence the massive payday.

But just because Brand's a gentleman doesn't mean he always walks the line you'd expect. Brand was recently in New York and I got a chance to sit down with him. We talked candidly about everything from ballers bolting for Europe, to his leaving the Clippers, to his relationship with Baron Davis. Here's what he had to say:

Kim: "This might be a funny place to start, but what are your thoughts on the recent trend of American players like Josh Childress signing with teams overseas for more money when they still have offers to play in the NBA?"
Brand: "I like that. I like that situation. I like what those guys are doing. They're taking their destinies into their own hands and saying, Hey, I want to play at a high level of basketball and I want to be compensated in a way that I feel is fair for me. So if another team is going to pay me that, then I need to move to Greece or Italy, which are beautiful places, to do it, then I have to do it. I like that, it sends a message."

Kim: "Some NBA fans might be a little worried that if the league continues to lose players to Europe, then the quality might dip a little bit."
"I'd rather have the best product we can have, but we'd have to take away guaranteed contracts and do a whole bunch of stuff to have that happen. But hey, if a team's offering a guy two million dollars, and a team that's overseas is offering him four million Euros ... (Laughs)"

Kim: "... then it becomes hard to say no?"
"But why say no? For the honor and the privilege to play in the NBA? Yeah, I understand that part, because it is a privilege and an honor, but at the end of the day you're just trying to make it fair."

Kim: "Do you think your new team, the Sixers, are ready to contend for the Eastern title, the way you're constituted right now?"

Brand: "You know, I don't know. I know we'll definitely compete, and I know we should be in the playoffs, but how quickly we jell and grow, that takes time. Even the Celtics, they won it, but they had veterans that came in with one goal and one goal only. They grew during the season. The Pistons have been mainstays in the Eastern Conference Finals for the last seven years, or six out of seven years or whatever it is, and Orlando's gotten better, they've been together. But I know we're going to compete with all those teams for sure."

Kim: "Were you as surprised as everyone to see how well the Sixers did last season?"
Brand: "Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I was following them a little bit and I knew they had cap space -- some cap space -- and I was following 'em and at the beginning (of the season) they were just down. But at the second half of the season, they were one of the best teams in the NBA, not only in the East, but in the NBA, period."

Kim: "Because of your film company and the amount of time you've spent with the Clippers, I think most people forget that you're an East coast guy. How much of a factor was location in coming back to the Sixers?"
Brand: "Location was huge. I grew up in Peekskill, N.Y., which isn't that far from Philly. My wife's a Newark (N.J.) girl and we have our first child on the way, so you have that support group of family, and nothing's better than family. And they're not two minutes away -- they're still away -- but location definitely had a big part in the thought process. I had a higher offer from another team on the West coast outside of the Clippers, but being in the East with this young team really spoke to me about where I am in my career, trying to compete for championships and take my game, and my team, to the next level."


Kim: "Baron obviously would've made the situation in L.A. more attractive for you, right?"
Brand: "Yeah. Baron's a great player, and I wish him well there, and he would have made the situation a lot more attractive with that team. For sure."

Kim: "So have you guys talked much since he signed there?"
Brand: "Yeah, we still talk probably once a week still. He does stuff in the community, and he's in the movie industry, so we talk about stuff like that."

Kim: "You played with USA Basketball in 2006. Are you confident they're coming back from China with the gold?"
Brand: "As long as they're confident, I'm confident. I know Coach K and Mr. Colangelo will have those guys totally prepared, and the way everything's run is first-rate. I'm definitely saddened because of my injury that I couldn't be a part of it, but I definitely think they'll bring the gold back. There have been some small injuries and stuff like that, but the team that they have, the guys are certainly selfless and their goal is to win the gold. They don't have role players, but the superstars on that team are the role players. You've got a guy like Dwyane Wade coming off the bench. I played with him (in '06), and he passed, he played D, he played hard. So I think they're going to rise to the occasion and bring that gold back."

Kim: "They obviously understand the pressure and the importance of winning it all after losing in '04."
Brand: "Absolutely. That's what USAB instilled in the team the last two years: family, togetherness, and teamwork, and those guys are playing like that, and they're going to play like that. I expect the gold. I don't want to put too much pressure on them, though."

Kim: "What was the hardest part about coming back from rupturing your Achilles?"
Brand: "The fear of learning to trust it, and wondering if you'll ever have your explosiveness back and if you'll ever be able to play at this level again. So playing the last eight games of last season, and having 20 points in my first game back and winning that game, really just help me jump that hurdle, no pun intended. And I felt great about it after that."

Kim: "After seeing Shaun Livingston's career take the turn that it has due to a knee injury, it's got to be every athlete's greatest fear, to suffer a debilitating injury like that."
Brand: "Absolutely. You have a small window to be a pro athlete, and to have a horrific injury like that is definitely a guy's biggest fear."

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