Ed Stefanski, the 76ers' president/general manager, sees what we all see: The Sixers seem to run a little more effectively in the absence of Elton Brand, the power forward who went down Dec. 17 against the Milwaukee Bucks with a dislocated right shoulder.
The Sixers are off to a distressing 13-20 start, including a record of 4-6 under Tony DiLeo, the coaching the replacement for the fired Maurice Cheeks. They're 2-6 without Brand, and were 1-5 on their just completed trek that took them from Boston to Denver, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, Dallas and San Antonio. Their only victory came against the injury-depleted Clippers.
Brand, the 6-9 power forward who was heralded virtually unanimously around the NBA as the most impactful free agent signing during the summer, is expected to miss another 10 days to two weeks as he continues his rehabilitation process. He is scheduled to be re-evaluated later this week by Dr. Craig Morgan, his personal orthopedic surgeon, and Dr. Jack McPhilemy, the Sixers' orthopedic specialist.
''They will determine whether Elton is ready for some live action, but they agree that we've bypassed the time in which surgery might have been necessary,'' Stefanski said. ''They also agree that, given the force he took in a freak fall, with an opposing player landing right on his shoulder, they're very happy and relieved the injury wasn't worse.''