It’s been just about a month since Elton Brand came out of retirement to re-join the 76ers, and aside from some practice sessions, the 16-year veteran has not yet put on a uniform.
Whether or not he suits up and gets into an actual NBA game any time soon remains to be seen. Better yet, Brand might not need to see playing time in order for his true value for the Sixers to be realized.
“My first reaction is no, he doesn’t need to get into a game to provide our team tremendous value,” coach Brett Brown said after Tuesday’s practice at PCOM. “He never needs to step onto an NBA court. He probably will and he’s been working and he’s been fantastic with his condition. The leadership he provides all over the place has nothing to do with 48 minutes. He’s wonderful to have around all over the place.”
Since joining the Sixers on Jan. 4, Brand has been something of a coach on the playing roster. He’s taken rookie Jahlil Okafor under his wing and mentored many of the Sixers’ young players. Though he takes part in practice, Brand is a vocal presence on the team’s bench during games, getting in his teammates’ ears in regard to game situations and providing guidance with his years of experience.
That role can’t be underestimated, says Brown.
“He’s great to talk to. Sharing information with Jahlil, he’s great,” Brown said. “And I think he’s in a place personally that he’s allowed himself to be great.”
But Brand didn’t come out of retirement just to practice and sit on the bench. At some point he’s going to play. As for when that day will be, that's something of a mystery.
“Practice-wise things have been pretty good,” Brand said. “With me, I’m not trying to take anything away from the development of the young guys. We need to get these young guys some looks and whenever they need me, I’m ready. I can play if need be.”
In other words, Brand doesn’t need to play.
“My ego [doesn’t need the attention],” Brand said. “But if there is a situation where I can help, yeah, I’d love the opportunity [to play]. Coach talked to me two weeks ago if it was OK to be active and I said, ‘Yes, if you need me, let me know.’ It’s more of that kind of case.”
There are a lot of game situations where Brand can speak to players in the way a coach cannot. In a sense, he serves as a translator between the coaching staff and the Sixers’ young players, which helps both sides communicate better.
“It’s the little things that these guys need to improve on,” Brand said.
As for off-the-court activities, Brand has also sat on the bench. Last week when the Sixers were in Orlando, Fla., many of the players went to the Universal Studios theme park, but Brand sat that one out.
“I took a nap,” Brand said.
That’s about the only event in which Brand has sat out. Normally, he's at the end of the bench, he said, waiting for the call.
“If they need me, I’m ready,” he said.