The news might seem like a thunderbolt to the Sixers, that Elton Brand will be missing for a month with a fracture and a torn labrum in his shoulder. They just changed coaches and now they're going to have to spend an extended period of time essentially marking time until Brand returns and Tony DiLeo gets a chance to integrate him into the running game the franchise so desperately craves.
Except that there is something that can be accomplished in Brand's absence.
Call it Operation Sammy.
The goal should be two-fold: to get Samuel Dalembert out of the funk into which he has sunk this season, and then to trade him for the shooter that this team needs so badly.
Sammy is big. Sammy can run. Sammy can rebound. When whatever weight of the world that rests upon his shoulders is lifted, he gives you something. For an outsider looking in, he has a couple of the unteachables -- big, fast -- and he can resemble a nice piece in a rotation. Weighed down, like this season, he is a waste of playing time. But get him going, galloping, excited again, and you've got something.
In Brand's absence, the Sixers can attempt to re-create what they had at the end of last season. There is a decent chance, in fact, that they will look better in Brand's absence than they have with him on the floor, that they will re-discover their intensity and their legs without everybody tripping over themselves in an attempt to defer to everybody else. Some people might mock that. The correct reply goes like this: given time and health, Brand will make them better. He is not the reason they slowed down -- the rest of them are the reason. And come playoff time, if there is a playoff time, Brand will make them a far more viable team than they were last spring.
But a shooter remains the gaping hole in the blueprint. Dalembert might be able to get them that shooter. At this point, though, Dalembert will get them nothing. They need to re-find whatever he has lost, re-capture the fun for him, and then do a deal. Marreese Speights can fill his role -- he's doing it more and more anyway.
So that's it. That's how the Sixers make this month productive.