You have to give Elton Brand credit. The Sixers general manager has already been more accountable than either of the team’s two previous GMs.
He’s a regular fixture at games and spoke with the media before Saturday night’s win over the Raptors.
Brand gave a medical update, talked about the team’s search for more talent and the expectations going forward.
Update on Markelle Fultz, Zhaire Smith
Really there was good news and kind of no news here.
Smith, acquired in a draft-night trade with the Suns, suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot back in August. He then had an allergic reaction in September that required a thoracoscopy. Because of complications, Smith lost a significant amount of weight.
He’s finally been able to get back on the court though on a limited basis.
"Zhaire has been in the gym every morning, early in the morning, sometimes 5 a.m., shooting,” Brand said. “He's in good spirits. He'll have another test on his foot after the holiday. But we expect to see him back this season."
As Brett Brown alluded to Wednesday night, the Sixers could definitely use another capable perimeter defender. The hope is Smith can provide that once healthy.
With Fultz, there wasn’t really anything new to report. He’s in L.A. undergoing rehab for thoracic outlet syndrome with physical therapist Judy Seto. He’s not doing any basketball activities at this time.
The only interesting thing to note is that Brand was noncommittal when asked if Fultz would play again this season. Brand also said he’ll have another update on Fultz after Christmas.
Both Fultz and Smith will be with the team in Boston Christmas day.
Where can the team improve?
Brand wasn’t shy in saying that he’s looking for ways to improve his roster. He acknowledged that he’s looking into the trade and buyout markets.
He also mentioned the G League as a possible resource, with senior VP of player personnel Marc Eversley and assistant GM Ned Cohen just returning from the G League Showcase in Las Vegas. It’s easy to scoff at the notion of a player from that level making an impact for a title contender, but it’s not crazy.
Brand singled out Haywood Highsmith and Norvel Pelle as two players already in Delaware to keep an eye on.
Highsmith, a product of D-II Wheeling Jesuit Academy, has been playing extremely well for the Blue Coats — especially recently. He’s a great athlete, has ideal size (6-foot-7) and is shooting 39 percent from three. The Sixers recently had him in for a workout.
Pelle is an intriguing player. He was a highly-touted prospect coming out of high school but had academic eligibility issues at St. John’s and then Iona. He decided to turn pro but went undrafted. He’s been spending time overseas and in the G League. He’s a tremendous athlete and the Sixers could use an athletic five to rim run and back up Joel Embiid.
Can either player help the Sixers? You never know.
Expectations for the season
Since Brand pulled the trigger on a trade for four-time All-Star Jimmy Butler, the expectations have heightened. With that said, Brand has been quick to temper those expectations but acknowledges them.
He wants what the fans want.
“I’m confident, I’m encouraged that we will be right there with these elite teams when it counts in April, May and hopefully June,” Brand said. “We want to win. We want to win big. I don’t want to let this city and the fans down.”
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