Elton Brand could be to the Philadelphia 76ers what Juwan Howard is now to the Miami Heat.
Elton Brand was signed partway through this season to the Philadelphia 76ers, and it came as a bit of a surprise to some 76ers fans. We’ve seen this team put younger faces in the driver seat before veteran faces, and to see a veteran be brought in with little intention to use him in actual game situations was a bit off a detour from the rebuilding process Sam Hinkie had implemented.
Part of the move could have been influenced by Jerry Colangelo, an older face in the NBA that was hired to the team’s front office partway through the season as well. Colangelo was said to have influenced other moves, such as the trade that brought in Ish Smith.
The veteran presence is not a new concept around the NBA. Paul Pierce perfected the concept last season with the Washington Wizards, balancing impactful play with wisdom for young guys perfectly. Some other players aren’t as impactful on the court, but the constant that comes along with having a veteran is the knowledge they have from being in the NBA for many years.
Juwan Howard is one of the recent examples of a veteran presence in the NBA, and he took his coach-like mentality as a player much farther than his career as a player. Most players who function as veteran presences on teams in the NBA take some time after their retirement before they seek careers again in the NBA in leadership roles, but Howard was brought on as a coach to the Miami Heat with no gap in between his playing career and coaching career. In the consecutive season following his last as a player, Howard was brought on as an assistant coach to the Heat, a role he still has.
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Howard had a long playing career, playing from 1994 to 2013, and is one of those players who really seems to belong in the NBA in one capacity or another. He played with 13 different teams over those nearly two decades worth of basketball, and had a lot of knowledge built up.
In Howard’s final season, he functioned as a player until the playoffs came around for the Heat, where he did not appear, but functioned as a coach.
Elton Brand on the other hand, has played for five different NBA teams, but does have some NBA knowledge of his own built up. Like Howard, he seems to be one of those players that just can’t stay away from the game, and loves to be involved. Even though this season, it seemed like his career was coming to a final stop, he jumped right away on the idea of coming onto the Sixers as a player and a mentor.
It does help that Brand lives in the Philadelphia area with his family. For an older player, family becomes more and more important, and the idea of retiring to be surrounded more often by your family is intriguing, but when you love two things, basketball and family, you will find a way to make time for each of them.
Brand definitely isn’t as much of a coach as Howard was with the Heat in his final year (Howard was actually named as an acting coach throughout the playoffs), but there were some question when he was brought on as to why he wasn’t brought on as a coach so that he wasn’t taking up a roster spot. Now that the Sixers have been battered enough to have to play him in recent games, it’s seeming more obvious as to why he’s still a player, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Brand stick with the team in the future as a coach rather than a player.
Brand is smart, and knows how to interact with players. Having an assistant coach that can help bridge the gap between the players and the coaching staff, especially with such a young team, is a great idea.