Shooting Down A Brand Rumor

HOUSTON--The response by's Chad Ford to a chat session question all but jumped off the Internet. Elton Brand, the player the 76ers signed for five years and $79.8 million, was available on the trade market? Already?

Ford: "From what my sources around the league are saying, Brand is available. The question is, given how poorly he's played this year and his huge contract, does anybody want him?''

My comment: Calm down. While Sixers president/general manager Ed Stefanski said he does not comment on rumors, a source familiar with the Sixers situation said that Ford's premise is incorrect, that Stefanski had not contacted anyone about Brand, that the chat session comment had no legs.

The source also said that, if Brand's name did come up in conversations with other teams--and that's not necessarily the case, either--it might have been teams inquiring about Brand's rehab process after suffering a dislocated right shoulder Dec. 17. At the same time, team executives are constantly trying to gauge the value of their players around the NBA. That's just the nature of the business.

All Stefanski would say was: ''I think it's early, and Elton is just trying to fit in. He's been lively defensively. He's just trying to feel his way.''

Coach Tony DiLeo's plan is to again bring Brand off the bench tonight against the Houston Rockets in the Toyota Center/ This will be Brand's third appearance after missing 16 games. He played 13 minutes against the New York Knicks and 18 minutes against the New Orleans Hornets.

DiLeo said he does not have a specific timetable for when Brand would resume his role as the starting power forward.

''We don't have it in mind that he'll go back to starting after three games or four games or anything like that,'' DiLeo said. ''When it's time, it'll show itself.''