Former Bulls No. 1 pick Elton Brand promoted to GM by Sixers


Former Bulls No. 1 pick Elton Brand promoted to GM by Sixers

The Philadelphia 76ers made a shocking move on Tuesday, promoting Elton Brand to be the franchise's newest general manager after a lengthy search. 

Bryan Colangelo resigned from the 76ers back on June 7, and there felt like there was little progress made on the GM-search front as September wore on. But Brand, who was the No. 1 pick by Chicago in the 1999 NBA Draft, is an internal hire that is both inspiring and scary when you consider his lack of experience in the front office. 

He spent 17 NBA seasons playing for the Bulls, Clippers, Hawks and 76ers. And after his playing career ended he dabbled in front office work, joining Philadelphia's staff as a consultant, and then later on as the GM of their G League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers. 

Brand's hire could have far-reaching implications. If the Sixers unique front-office structure works out, other franchises will take notice. Brand will be the GM, but head coach Brett Brown—who acted as the head decision-maker in personnel matters during the GM search—will still have a powerful voice, and is more likely to work with, rather than for Brand. And there is nothing wrong with that, but is interesting in the fact that usually we see GMs overrule their coaches on divisive personnel matters, whereas in Philly, big decisions will definitely have a more open-eneded approach when trying to come to a conclusion. 

And the biggest ripple-effect of all comes from the fact that Brand is a (quite recent) former player.

If his initial run as the Sixers GM goes well, it will surely inspire more NBA franchises to take a serious look at former players as front-office candidates. Notably, former players like Shareef Abdur Rahim and Allan Houston have looked for prominent roles in an NBA front office with varying degrees of success, working for the NBA and Knicks front-offices respectively. But Brand's quick ascencsion to GM in Philadelphia could serve as a blueprint for future teams, epspecially those that want to empower their head coach even more, without bestowing upon them the dreaded—at least from a fan perspctive—head coach/President of Basketball Operations role.

The Brand-Brown partnership will allow Brown to focus more on day-to-day team management and less on big-picture team building. And in turn, it will allow Brand to sharpen up his skills as a front-office exec with a team already made to compete, while providing Brown with another voice to rely on about coaching decisions. It is the exact type chance that the Sixers that have become known for taking over the years, the high-risk hiring that could usher in an era of stability or further expose franchise fragility. 

Kris Dunn continues to buy into role — and the Bulls are better for it

Kris Dunn continues to buy into role — and the Bulls are better for it

Jim Boylen has plenty of pet phrases. Role acceptance is one of them.

And if you want to get the Bulls coach rolling, ask him about Kris Dunn’s performance in that department.

“Big time. Big time,” Boylen repeated, for good measure. “He just wants to win. He’s the first guy in the breakfast room. You have to be in the building 45 minutes before [practice]. He’s in 1 hour, 45 minutes before. He does his workout 45 minutes before everybody else with Coach [Nate] Loenser. He is locked in. He cares. He always cared. And he’s playing winning basketball. I’m really happy for him.”

There may be no greater compliment from a coach to a player than to say one is playing winning basketball. Relayed Boylen’s comment, Dunn didn’t take it lightly.

“That means a lot. That’s what I try to do,” Dunn said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. “I come from a winning program at Providence. I know what winning looks like. And I know what it takes to win.”

Right now, that involves Dunn accepting his role as a reserve aimed at wreaking defensive havoc on opponents. When Dunn scores 13 points, as he did in Tuesday’s victory over the Knicks, it’s a bonus.

There’s a lot going right with Dunn’s game these days. He leads the NBA with 25 steals, posting multiple steals in seven of 11 games. He has tallied 30 assists to just nine turnovers in 224 minutes, emblematic of solid decision-making. And he’s shooting 47.1 percent from the field — a figure made even more impressive by his anemic 17.6 percent shooting from 3-point range.

“I take pride in my defense,” Dunn said. “The second unit, I think we have good defenders in our group. Archie [Ryan Arcidiacono], he’s a dog. Thad [Young], he’s a dog. Coby [White], he’s a dog. I could go on and on. We try to come in and bring great energy and try to maintain the lead or, if we’re down, try to get it back.”

But Dunn’s biggest area of growth has been his role acceptance. It’s not easy losing a starting job, particularly when it comes on the heels of executive vice president John Paxson publicly challenging Dunn. And then the Bulls acquired Tomas Satoransky in a sign-and-trade transaction, drafted White and re-signed Arcidiacono.

Multiple outlets reported over the offseason that Dunn and his representatives wanted a change of scenery. The Bulls, league sources said in July, held trade talks with several teams, including the Grizzlies, regarding a sign-and-trade transaction for Justin Holiday.

Instead, Dunn returned. And since the first day of voluntary September workouts, he has maintained a positive attitude.

“It’s a good team we have. I just wanted to be a part of it. We have a lot of talented players, a good group of guys. I wanted to buy into what Coach is preaching, buy into the system,” Dunn said.  “All in all, I feel my game can go anywhere — starting, coming off the bench. Wherever you put me at, I’m a hooper.”

This example hasn’t been lost on young players like the rookie White.

“That’s my dog,” White told NBC Sports Chicago. “We’re part of the bench mob. Ain’t that right, KD? I love playing with KD. I know he’s going to compete at both ends. If things aren’t going well, he can turn the game around with his energy. He’s passionate. You love to play with people who play hard and want to win.

“Our relationship has grown on and off the court. He has instilled confidence in me. I haven’t been shooting it well before [Tuesday night]. KD told me to keep being aggressive and keep shooting. He’s always encouraging his teammates. When one of us does something good, he’s the first to hype us up.”

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Kevin Durant sports Toni Kukoc jersey at a workout


Kevin Durant sports Toni Kukoc jersey at a workout

Here’s your random, surprising and somewhat meaningless thing of the day: Kevin Durant wore a Bulls Toni Kukoc jersey in a gym.

This isn’t reason to start “KD to the Bulls” speculation, but it is a weird, cool thing that came out of nowhere.

Kukoc was 6-foot-11 and primarily made his living on the perimeter as a sharpshooter. He shot 40.3% from 3-point range during the Bulls’ 72-win season in 1995-96.

Durant, 31, would have been young and impressionable just as Kukoc was entering his prime with the Bulls during those years. He also has grown into having a similar profile as a big man playing on the perimeter. From that perspective, it’s reasonable to think Durant looked up to Kukoc from a young age. Durant will also wear No. 7, Kukoc's number with the Bulls, when he eventually comes back from injury and suits up for the Nets.

It’s still a bit jarring to see one of the best players in the NBA repping someone from a previous era who never made an All-Star team.

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