No Brand? Now What?

Sixers forward Elton Brand will have surgery Monday and is out for the remainder of the season. (Ron Cortes / File photo)

We all know by now that Elton Brand is done for the season. From the first time Brand spoke after the dislocated right shoulder -- which occured on Dec. 17 -- he made it clear that if the rehab didn't go smoothly, and he was still in pain, surgery would be the next step.

So that's where the 76ers are right now: Brand will be having surgery, as early as Monday. And he'll be done for the season. There was a few twists and turns that led from Brand scoring 12 points in that win over the Houston Rockets last week, and now this. First he went scoreless and didn't play in the second half on Tuesday night. Before that game, he came onto the court with a brace. At halftime, he told the training staff that his shoulder had stiffened up, but that he could go if necessary.

On Wednesday, Brand wasn't at practice. The Sixers said he received an MRI, but the MRI showed the injury was healing as scheduled. The Sixers said Brand was day-to-day but "expected to play." So, what gives? Then we learn that the MRI was viewed only by a technician, Brand had yet to see his doc, and his agent, David Falk, was flying into town.

Uh-oh. Now today, this.

The MRI results were then viewed by both Dr. Jack McPhilemy, team orthopedist and medical director, and Dr. Craig Morgan of the Morgan-Kalman Clinic in Wilmington, DE. After review, it was concluded that the initial tear of the labrum was unstable and had considerably decreased Brand’s range of motion.
The Sixers called the first six weeks of Brand’s treatment “conservative,” but determined that surgery would be required to prevent further damage.
“Elton wanted to do whatever he could to get back on the court and initially elected to forgo surgery in order to help his teammates,” Stefanski said.  “He worked as hard as he could over the past six weeks to return, however the scope the injury would not allow it.”

Well. Since we've been going back and forth on here for a few months about the merits of this team with Brand and without Brand, we better discuss it now.

What does this mean?

We can't say anymore that playing without Brand is a "sugar high" -- meaning the Sixers revert to their old style, the one that got them to the playoffs last season, win some games, but crash in the playoffs (like we saw last year). Those games without Brand are no longer just treading water before trying to adjust to Brand again. Nope, the Sixers have to find a way to make that "sugar high" permanent. How?

1.) Marreese Speights. You have to ask yourself, anyway: Would the Sixers have signed Brand in the first place if they knew Speights was going to be so effective? Who knows. Well, now we're all going to get a heavy dose of Speightyman. And Reggie Evans. And Samuel Dalembert. Is that enough for a productive front court? If it weren't for Speights, I'd say no. But Speights is a legitimate option. He can shoot from the outside, finish on the break, grab offensive rebounds. And if Evans can play 15 minutes a game the way he played on Tuesday (all over the place) ...

2.) The evolution of Andre Iguodala. People have said that he shouldn't be, or can't be, a No. 1 option. I disagree. And he needs to keep proving it. In the playoffs, when the defense focused on him last season, his scoring average was slashed. Iguodala needs to become the leader of this team -- all the time, every game. The way he started playing when Brand went out for the first time, that's the Iguodala that will fill the gaps.

3.) Andre Miller. What should the Sixers do with his expiring contract? Should they trade it straight-up for the Bulls' Kirk Hinrich? Should they trade it straight-up for Mike Miller's? Or does Brand's season-ending injury change the Sixers thinking? Would trading Miller now be too much change in too short a time? There's two week left until the trading deadline. This season-ending injury changes what the Sixers can offer and what they need.

I think this injury will send the Sixers back to the style of play, and effectiveness, that we saw in Brand's absence. But the question of their playoff effectiveness still remains.

And, of course, I'm sure we'll see plenty of comments complaining about how Brand is a bust. And how Ed Stefanski made a mistake. Let's be patient and see how this plays out. From everything I've heard around the NBA, Brand is not 100 percent from the Achilles and might need this time (two-fold) to regain his form.

As for tonight's game against the Indiana Pacers, well, that slides to the background with this news. More to come, I'm sure ...