Sixers lose Brand for next two games

As if losing five of the past seven games wasn't bad enough for the Sixers and coach Doug Collins, this morning at the team's shootaround at FedEx Forum in Memphis he announced that forward Elton Brand would miss the next two games (tonight against the Grizzlies and tomorrow in Houston) due to a sprained right thumb.

Brand hurt the thumb a couple of weeks ago and has been trying to play through the pain. But in Sunday's loss in Minnesota, Brand hurt it again trying to block a dunk attempt by 6-11, 290-pound Nikola Pekovic.

"He's probably going to be missing the next two games with that tumb," said Collins. "He reinjured it against Minnesota late in the game when he tried to block that play by Pekovic. We'll be without him the next two nights. Hopefully over the All-Star break that will give it a chance to calm that thing down."

After tomorrow's game in Houston, the team will be on break until they meet in Detroit on Monday for a practice before playing the Pistons on Tuesday night.

Little used Andres Nocioni, who has played in just eight games this season, will start in Brand's place tonight.

"We'll see if maybe he can give us some good energy and maybe some good spacing out on the floor and stuff," said Collins. "He's worked very hard and been a real pro for us. We think we need some activity. Obviously we're going to be giving up some size and that's going to be a real key for us because they (Memphis) do a good job on the offensive backboard. But I want to start this game with a lot of energy. I just think it's important."

For Nocioni the start is a reward for just keeping his head down and practicing hard every day, despite the fact that he's played so little.

"There's a reason why need to keep in shape and working hard every night," said Nocioni. "That is what I tried to do. I try to do my job, that's it. I'm pretty sure I'm in good shape and I'll be able to run the floor. I'm fine."