The uniforms are a new design, according to Sixers general manager Ed Stefanski, although "iconic," as in similar to the ones worn by the teams that featured Julius Erving, Moses Malone and Charles Barkley.
It was fitting that Elton Brand, along with Thaddeus Young, modeled the new unis yesterday at the Broad Street Atrium inside the Wachovia Center. See, Brand also is new to Sixers fans and the hope is that he can return to his old self.
Brand signed a 5-year deal with the club last summer after playing just eight games with the Los Angeles Clippers the season before due to a ruptured left Achilles' tendon. With the big contract (close to $80 million) came enormous expectations from Sixers fans. But Brand was far from himself during his brief stint last season when he appeared in only 29 games after dislocating his right shoulder in mid-December and having surgery about 2 months later. He admitted yesterday that his left leg also was far from 100 percent last year.
"When I started last season, it wasn't 100 [percent], it wasn't there explosionwise," he said. "But now I have the one leg strength back, I have the two legs to bounce back. I've been training here the last 2 weeks so it feels good."
It was a busy summer for the team, with the hire of a new coach in Eddie Jordan, the decision not to bring back starting point guard Andre Miller, the draft and free-agent signings - most notably Rodney Carney and Jason Kapono. It was just as busy of an offseason for Brand.
"I trained a lot, the Achilles' and the calf," he said while wearing the Sixers' new home white uniform trimmed in blue with red numbers. "That had a chance to really, really heal up. I worked diligently on the calf and the leg to get that strong while the shoulder rehabbed. My focus is to remain healthy this entire season and so I don't burn out."
He came to the club as a legitimate 20-point, 10-rebound, 2-blocks a game player. And before the Achilles' injury, a durable one, too, having averaged 76 games played per season in his first eight. Although the questions arose, and still linger, about how he would fit in with his young, fast teammates, Brand knows that Sixers fans haven't seen the whole player yet. So does Stefanski.
"Elton has proven himself over the years as a 20-and-10 guy," Stefanski said. "Last year we knew it would take him time as the season progressed to get better and better. Then he had that unfortunate incident where a guy came down on his shoulder. The fans have not seen the real Elton Brand yet. As he said, he's 100 percent healthy and he's raring to go. He wants to prove a lot to people."
During recent workouts, Brand has shown teammate Young, who is entering his second year, what he can do.
"He gets better every day," said Young, sporting the Sixers' away, red uniforms, trimmed in blue with white lettering. "He's making all his little turnaround jumpers. He's giving you hook shots. He's taking you off the dribble, going to the basket and finishing strong, dunking. He's out there like a monster."
Which is one element the team was sorely missing in the game that is foremost in the minds of fans, Game 6 of the first-round of the playoffs, a 25-point thumping by the Orlando Magic that eliminated the Sixers.
"I'm excited to be healthy, I'm excited to add to the team," Brand admitted. "Two first-round [playoff] losses the last 2 years for a young team is OK, but I was brought in here to go farther than that and that's my goal and that's what I've been thinking about the entire offseason.
"We have a young team but we have guys that are capable to lead. Andre Iguodala, he's played amazing and the guys accepted him [as a leader]. We don't have a Theo Ratliff and guys like that, so I'm definitely going to have to take that role with that in mind."
Draped in the new uniform, you couldn't help but think Brand wants to show his game is back - when he was averaging 20.3 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in those eight seasons prior to injuries.