Philadelphia almost knocked off the streaking Celtics Tuesday night, but Elton Brand didn't play a role. E.B., a week into a mixed-results return, played less than nine minutes, wearing a bulky brace on his bad shoulder and doing no more than collecting a few caroms and missing a couple shots.
The pain is such that, according to Phil Jasner of the Philadelphia Daily News (via Liberty Ballers), Brand might "shut it down." The length of said shutdown isn't discussed. Better fodder, however, is whether this is good in the short term for Philadelphia.
I'm not a guy who will delude himself into Ewing Theory garbage when we have a month of work to study, but it can't be denied that the implementation of Brand into the fast-paced penetration style of the 76ers was far from smooth. The roster knew how to play a certain way, and refined that mode last season. Brand enters, things change, and it takes time to adjust. For everyone -- Andre Miller, Andre Iguodala, Brand himself.
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Brand exits, the supporting cast remembers how to play, and voila! some wins. The Philly offense has been so much better without Brand, eight points per 100 possessions better. That is not a trivial amount, and it speaks directly to the problem we describe: the Sixers don't know how to incorporate Brand into the offense. (Defensively, the 76ers are very good without Brand, and potentially great with him.)
So there's the rub: the offense will get better if Brand sits and heals, and Philadelphia might win enough games to capture the fourth or fifth seed in the East. But that doesn't help you in April -- you signed Brand to have a post defender and scorer in the playoffs. If Brand just needs some time (and not the whole offseason) to heal, can you really expect to try the bouillabaise again in late March?
I know we aren't supposed to talk about trade rumors -- the 76ers have shot them down, and Brand said the rumor sheets frustrate him -- but there are a lot of rocks and hard places in Philadelphia right now, and I can think of a dozen teams that'd kindly take on the problem.