Maybe we should have known this was coming from the Sixers.
Sure, they looked into a bevy of candidates for their vacant general manager job after Bryan Colangelo’s Twitter scandal rocked the organization.
There were the reported big-name misses such as Houston general manager Daryl Morey and former Cleveland Cavaliers exec David Griffin. There were also the other capable external candidates that included Utah Jazz assistant general manager Justin Zanik and Houston Rockets vice president Gersson Rosas.
Of course, in-house guys Ned Cohen, Marc Eversley and Alex Rucker were each given a legitimate shot at the job.
However, looking back on things, perhaps Elton Brand should have been recognized as the man for the job all along.
Not because of his front-office pedigree. Let’s be honest here, Brand was just in a uniform as recently as the 2015-16 NBA season when he played 17 games during his second stint with the Sixers.
He followed that up by retiring (for the second time) and joining the franchise as a player development consultant. That lasted just nine months before the 39-year-old was named general manager of the Delaware Blue Coats and another year before he was tabbed as vice president of basketball operations.
While that’s an impressive rise up the ranks, it doesn’t scream out as the extensive résumé of someone prepared to take over the controls of a 52-win team on the cusp of being a serious championship contender.
But Brand has one major characteristic that is critical to the Sixers at this moment: respect. After the Colangelo mess unraveled in unprecedented fashion, the Sixers’ current players — and future ones — need someone in a position of power that understands them and that they can trust.
While the present group insisted the words of Colangelo — or his wife — from the multiple burner Twitter accounts didn’t bother them, that was not completely true. No one wants to be talked about, especially when the words come from a person who is supposed to be on your side.
“It was hurtful because of the stuff that was said in those tweets,” Joel Embiid admitted during an interview with ESPN before last month’s NBA Africa Game. “But at the end of the day, I know who I am as a person, as a player. And I know a lot of people, they're always telling me I'm great but I have a lot of stuff to work on. And actually, I appreciated everything that was said about me because if it was true — even if it wasn't — that stays in my mind. And it makes me want to get better. The stuff where they were saying I wasn't happy, that makes me want to work harder on my body. Or if they're saying that I couldn't do anything, it makes me want to work harder and get better. So, actually, I love it. I appreciated it. It was great. It was great for my game.”
What's even better for Embiid's game? Having a general manager in place that knows the game himself and holds such high regard around the league that other teams/players will at least listen to his sales pitch. That's what comes with being a veteran of 17 NBA seasons and one of the classiest individuals you will ever meet.
Now we're not saying Brand's promotion will turn the Sixers into the league's top destination for free agents or that he's going to suddenly start fleecing teams in trades. Not at all. He's going to have his work cut out for him as a novice in a cutthroat business.
The thing is, he's always been willing to put in the work. Brand's career on the court should tell you that, and now he's bringing that same determination to his new role. With plenty of help, of course.
“More generally, my focus is NBA prep and travel and working,” Brand said of his mindset in June. “We’re doing it collectively and supporting Coach (Brett) Brown and Marc Eversley and Alex and Ned with all the things we’re doing there. That’s actually my main focus. The G League has been on the back burner because of that.”
Now it’s his sole focus. That’s an entirely different kind of Philly max.