Elton Brand has been a go-to player his whole career, but his teams have had little success. Perhaps a complementary role for the veteran big man is all that’s needed to finally get him back to the postseason.
Brand may be set to return as the 76ers look to win eight straight for the first time in nearly six years when they face the Dallas Mavericks on Monday.
Philadelphia coach Tony DiLeo said Brand (shoulder) would practice Sunday, then be re-evaluated before a decision was made on his availability for this game.
Brand is one of the league’s top post players when healthy, averaging 20.1 points and 10.2 rebounds for his career. But he has participated in only one postseason, with his teams finishing below .500 in nine of his 10 seasons before signing with Philadelphia (20-20) as a free agent prior to 2008-09.
After making the playoffs in 2007-08, the 76ers struggled early as they tried to adjust to playing with Brand. Philadelphia was 11-14 when Brand went down with a dislocated shoulder, and he’s averaging a career-low 15.9 points.
With Brand out, the 76ers have won seven in a row and have returned to .500 for the first time since they were 7-7 following a loss to Charlotte on Nov. 24. A win over the Mavericks (23-17) would give Philadelphia eight straight wins for the first time since a nine-game run from Feb. 12-March 2, 2003.
Since the 76ers are playing so well, outscoring opponents by an average margin of 12.5 points during their run, Brand will be eased into the rotation. DiLeo said Brand will come in as a reserve playing short stints, perhaps 5-6 minutes at a time.
“He’ll be coming off the bench and we’ll just try to work him in slowly,” DiLeo said. “He really hasn’t had like a full practice. We haven’t had time to have a full practice where we went up and down the court and he could scrimmage for 20 minutes. We really haven’t had that possibility.”
DiLeo and the Sixers prefer to play at a faster pace, which they struggled to do when Brand was on the floor. Philadelphia, though, insists, it can continue its success once Brand returns.
“I think Elton has had the opportunity to sit on the side and watch how we’re playing, how we’re moving the ball, how we’re forcing turnovers,” Sixers point guard Andre Miller said.
Miller and Andre Iguodala have led Philadelphia in Brand’s absence. Iguodala, particularly, has keyed the recent surge, scoring 20 or more in 11 of the last 14 games.
Iguodala had 28 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in the Sixers’ 107-97 over New York on Saturday night.
Dallas got a big game from its own star Saturday night, with Dirk Nowitzki making 16 of 20 shots and scoring 39 points in a 115-108 win over Utah.
Nowitzki is averaging 34.3 points and 11.6 rebounds in his last three games. He had 31 points in the Mavericks’ 96-86 win over the Sixers on Jan. 2.
Josh Howard, who added 10 points and seven rebounds in that contest, has missed four straight games due to a sprained left wrist. His status for Monday is uncertain.
Sharp-shooting swingman Matt Carroll, though, is expected to make his Dallas debut after being acquired in a trade with Charlotte on Friday. The Mavericks also picked up big man Ryan Hollins from the Bobcats in a swap for backup center DeSagana Diop.
Hollins was on the bench in street clothes Saturday, but couldn’t play because Carroll and Diop hadn’t taken their physicals.