It happened again: The 76ers looked better without Elton Brand on the court. But this time, the injury to Brand looks like it might keep him out of lineup for a significant amount of time. With 7 minutes, 23 second left in the third quarter, Brand took a hit from Bucks forward Luc Mbah a Moute, both went to the floor. Brand popped up quickly, as if nothing was wrong. He immediately walked off the floor, clutching his right shoulder. The word from the Sixers is that Brand dislocated his right shoulder. He was not available after the game as he was off-site getting an MRI to determine the damage.
His teammates sitting on the bench said Brand's shoulder was out-of-joint as he walked past.
When Brand left, he had four points and six rebounds. The Sixers trailed by seven points. Eventually, the Sixers (11-14) defeated the Milwaukee Bucks (11-16), 93-88. It was the second game since Sixers President and General Manager Ed Stefanski fired coach Maurice Cheeks and replaced him with Tony DiLeo. DiLeo is now 2-0, as the Sixers defeated the Washington Wizards in his debut.
Before last night's game, DiLeo was asked if he thought fans should expected a change in play within a few games. DiLeo said, "A major complete difference in how we play in three games? I don't think so." And, through two-and-a-half quarters, DiLeo was right. There were slight improvements: a good-looking trap in the backcourt, a possession with solid ball movement, better spacing for Brand down low. But the results were familiar: Trailing a not-very-good basketball team by double-digits on their home floor.
(Let's be clear, Brand is a very good basketball player. I don't, at all, believe he shouldn't be on the court when he's healthy. He plays hard. He scores points and grabs rebounds. But we have to discuss if the Sixers -- given the rest of their roster -- can play more effectively without him on the court. It's my belief that we're seeing these results without Brand because they had 82 games last season with the old roster, and only 22 (Brand missed two games with that strained hamstring ... and yes I'm aware this a parenthetical clause within parenthesis) with Brand. Obviously, they can easily revert to the style that worked for them last season. But here's the main thing: Yes, they made the playoffs with that style, but could they ever be more than that with just those pieces? What they have now, perhaps, when they can finally have both -- fast break and a halfcourt threat -- is a playoff team that can go past the first round. This is all just speculation, but these are the questions that need to be pondered. Yesterday in practice Brand had a great quote when asked why the Sixers might have messed with the chemistry of a playoff team. He said, "It's not as if they won the championship last season." That's true. But then one wonders if the cure can only be more time, more games, more practices with Brand and the rest of the roster. And if that was the case, why was Cheeks fired? When it's just going to take more time, more games for the next coach? I digress ...)
But all we have to look at is tonight. The Sixers went from down 10 to a five-point win. How did they do it? By playing like they played last season. Reggie Evans hunted down rebounds. Lou Williams (25 points) sliced to the rim, made outside shots, and just generally carried the fourth-quarter scoring. Andre Miller was his steady self. Thaddeus Young collected the scraps for 10 points and four rebounds. Rookie Marreese Speights had 12 points and a number of dunks off rebounds. And, while I know I'll get the standard "Trade Iguodala, He's Overpaid" comments, Iguodala still had seven assists and six rebounds. Yes, he shot 2 for 14. Or, as someone pointed out to me, he made all but 12 of the shots he took. Doesn't matter. He was on the court when the Sixers got their win on.
Let the discussion begin ...