Waiting For Elton Brand
The 76ers melding with Elton Brand remains a woirk in progress, but an encouraging one.
Waiting For Elton Brand
Thinking out loud before heading for Minnesota and Wednesday night's game against the Timberwolves:
1) If you've been waiting for Elton Brand to blow the doors off the Wachovia Center, you're waiting for the wrong guy.
He is, however, as advertised, even though his numbers are slightly off his career 20 points/10 rebouns averages. Still, he's averaging 15.5 and 10.3 and is the post player, stabilizing force and leader the 76ers have needed. It's obviously going to take more than 10 games for Brand to fgure out the strengths and weaknesses of his teammates, to work out spacing and shot-blocking issues with center Samuel Dalembert, and to do all of that without sacrificing his own strengths, including a very nice pick-and-pop mid-range jump shot.
2) The Sixers were impressive in last Wednesday's victory in Toronto, but they can't allow themselves to dig the type of hole (crater?) they did in Indianapolis Friday night, falling behind by 26 points before hitting the ignition. Oklahoma City was little more than a scrimmage opponent Saturday night. The T-Wolves figure to be more competitive, but they're 1-8, have lost their last 8 and have given back leads of at least 9 in 5 of their last 7. Coach Randy Wittman has already made references to ''Groundhog Day.''
3) P.J. Carlesimo's Thunder coaching staff was pure Philadelphia, with Paul Westhead, Ralph Lewis and Scott Brooks. Westhead coached at Cheltenham High and La Salle and has been all over the NBA, Lewis was a star at Frankford High and a walk-on star at La Salle and Brooks began his pro career as a Sixers guard.
4) Talking to Westhead elicited a terrific (although not for Sixers fans) Spectrum memory. He was the Los Angeles Lakers coach, filling in for the injured Jack McKinney in 1979-80, a season that culminated with the Lakers defeating the Sixers in six games of the Finals.
But it's Game 6 that everyone, including Westhead, recalls:
''I remember walking in the building for Game 6 and hearing a lot of noise,'' he said. "I asked a guard what was going on, and he said the commissioner had called and said, because there's a chance the Lakers could win the championship tonight, we had to build a platform for the ceremony. This was two hours before game time, and there was no platform.
''All through the game, I didn't have a sense that we would win. Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) wasn't in town, Jamaal Wilkes had 5 points at halftime and Norm Nixon didn't have a field goal in the half or the game. But with about a minute to go we were up 8, I looked at (assistant) Pat Riley and said 'I think we're going to win this.'''
The other thing Westhead recalls is the Lakers' rookie who jumped center that night in place of Abdul-Jabbar: Kid named Magic Johnson.
''I asked Magic if he had ever played center, and he said he had in high school,'' Westhead said. ''I asked him if he would take the center jump. He said 'No problem.' If I remember correctly, he got the opening tip, went to Kareem's low-post area and made a turnaround sky-hook, then played everywhere. Everyone thinks he played center for 40 minutes. He didn't. But it was symbollic.''
So, did westhead, like the Spectrum?
''I did that night,'' he said.
5) One last item, and it comes from Denver Nuggets coach George Karl--as duly chronicled by Rocky Mountain News columnist Dave Krieger--after Sunday night's victory over the T-Wolves, sparked in large part by Chauncey Billups, the guard they got from Detroit in the Allen Iverson deal.
Karl: "I would say when A.I. was here, we had, most games, (possessions) in the teens of contested tough shots. Sometimes in the 20s. And I don't know if we've had a double-digit one since Chauncey's been here.''
That would be, by the way, Chauncey Billups, the Western Conference Player Of The Month.