The 76ers welcomed Elton Brand back to practice yesterday, the first time he's taken part in contact drills since dislocating his shoulder Dec. 17. He was limited to half-court drills his first day back, but he was expected to cleared for full-court scrimmage today, according to Kate Fagan of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Assuming all goes well, he could be back in the lineup by the end of the week.
That's a good thing, right? On paper, without a doubt. But in real life? Only time will tell. The Sixers struggled to find their identity with Brand in the lineup earlier in the season, and Andre Iguodala in particular chaffed in the role of second banana.
Before Brand went down, Iggy averaged just 14.4 points per game. With Brand on the sidelines? He's slipped back into the alpha dog role, scoring 21.7 points a night while leading the Sixers to a 6-6 record, including a current four-game winning streak.
Of course, if the Sixers are going to make any noise this year, they need to find a way for Brand and Iguodala to co-exist, and they need to perform better than at a .500 clip. But despite all of their early struggles and a mid-season coaching change, they're still just a half-game out of No. 8 seed.
Considering Iggy's early struggles likely had as much to do with conditioning issues and a since-aborted position change as anything else, it's not out of the question the team keeps its current momentum and claws its way back to relevancy. Brand's return will steal even more minutes from an already grumpy Samuel Dalembert, but considering how Sammy has played recently, that's not necessarily a bad thing.