Elton Brand was recently signed as a player to be the “veteran presence” of the team, but some are wondering, why use a roster spot on him when he’s practically a coach?
Last week, it was announced that former Philadelphia 76ers player Elton Brand was brought on to the team, and would fill the apparent void in “veteran presence” that so many fans have wanted to see filled. Carl Landry, a veteran that’s been on the team all season, was apparently not enough.
Brand is highly regarded as a good pickup for the team, and I have yet to see many people at all rise up and call against the signing. It seems as if there’s a group that’s against every front office move (not just with the Sixers, but with every team) but a lot of people like this one. And what’s not to like? Here we have an intelligent basketball mind from Duke University (which is also Jahlil Okafor’s alma mater, which is important) who is Philadelphia located. He can be a great mentor to the guys and possibly even produce on the court.
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But that’s where things get iffy, because we’ve had him on the roster for about a week now, and we have yet to see him on the floor in any capacity other than pre-game warmups, which is nothing special, because we’ve even seen the likes of the season-injured Joel Embiid this year and last year. It’s nothing new to see players sit the bench for entire games for the Sixers, but Brand hasn’t even suited up. Apparently, his body is not at the point where it’s ready. This is understandable, as he’s been away from the game for a while, now, but so far, Brand has been somewhat of a glorified cheerleader.
Whenever I see anyone talk about the qualities Brand brings, “mentor” seems to be a word popping up almost every time. This is an obvious point that Colangelo is impacting general manager Sam Hinkie’s plan, or at least, taking it on a detour (possibly a shortcut). Before Colangelo was around, this signing would not have been considered. Giving away a young players’ roster spot that could be developed to an “old school Chevy” is something Hinkie is not a fan of, and you better believe him and Colangelo are butting heads with this signing.
That’s not to say Hinkie doesn’t value a veteran presence. He had veteran sharpshooter Shane Battier watching the Sixers’ practice early last week, and likely has his number on speed-dial as a consultant for the team, but has no intentions of signing him and using up a roster spot for him.
For the first time, I’m starting to agree with what Hinkie is likely thinking with Brand. Why hire him as a player? He’s been brought on to be 75 percent coach, 25 percent player, why not have him on the coaching staff? Not only does that not take up a roster spot, but it doesn’t eat up any of the team’s salary cap (not that money is exactly tight for the team right now, but still, saving it has been in Hinkie’s best interest in the past).
While right now I’m a bit frustrated that he was brought on as a player, I know that frustration will end once I see Brand suit up in uniform and get his first minutes of the season, because I also know that he has much more reason to be valued as a player-coach than as just a coach.
A lot of the reason that people wanted a veteran presence was to mentor the young guys with on-court situations, but the cries for a veteran became even more amplified when Jahlil Okafor got into some trouble in the month of October. Okafor got in a street fight in Boston, reportedly had a gun pointed at him outside an Old City nightclub, and was clocked going 108 miles per hour on the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. Oh, and he got caught using a fake ID.
A coach can’t do much to approach this but say, “Jah, you need to smarten up.” A player, and especially a respected player, can do so much more. First of all, a respected player saying, “Jah, you need to smarten up,” would impact Jahlil more. Secondly, a player can actually be with Jahlil in the after-hours when he’s out at these clubs and in questionable situations. Before you go telling me that he shouldn’t be in clubs because he’s not 21, there are a fair amount of clubs that allow anyone over 18 in, and even a small amount that let anyone over 17 in. It would be innappropriate for a coach to enter a club with Jahlil, but for a player? It’s just two co-workers having some fun after work.
On top of that, a player can relate more to other players than a coach would.
Finally, the fact that Brand actually wants to play probably impacted the decision. If they offered him a coaching job, he might have even turned it down.
Hiring Brand as a coach would have been smart in some respects. He wouldn’t be taking up a roster spot, or any of the player salary cap. But when you hire Brand as a coach, he isn’t as effective as a veteran presence. He can’t appropriately be with players in the after-hours, and he can’t be as relatable to the roster as he would be as a coach.
It looks as if Jerry Colangelo won this round, but there may have been a compromise. Colangelo may have wanted to attempt to bring in both Brand and Battier, but Hinkie may have bartered and gotten him to agree to only use Battier as a consultant.
Either way, I’m confident that Brand was a good addition, and there’s good reason to have him on the team as a player and not a coach.