Sunday, July 15, 2012

Big and Bad

I want to be positive about my Sixers, I really do. And then things like this last week happens, and I wonder what the point is, really...

Item 1: Amnesty for Elton Brand.

Now, in and of itself, getting out of EB's contract, and away from a 33-year-old 6'-9" F/C is something of a benefit. Brand's best offensive move is a mid-range jumper that doesn't go down often enough to justify more than 8 to 10 shots per game, and while he's an effective shot blocker and willing defender, that doesn't exactly make him a shutdown guy, or someone deserving a big deal. He tries real hard, plays pretty smart and will move the ball on offense, but all of that seems like something you should be able to find in freely available talent and/or coach up out of your younger guys, especially when your best on the court asset seems to be the coach that gets similar and better work out of your young bigs. Brand's departure should also give us all the final opportunity we need to determine why Thad Young shouldn't start, and that's probably all to the good, too.

But still, it rankles to lose a rotation guy for no better reason than he made too much money, rather than, you know, an actual basketball decision. If Brand is your worst starter or your first big off the bench, you might have a very good team, and in the right situation (Miami?), he could easily have gotten a ring and been overrated for his contributions. The only thing that keeps Brand from being as beloved as a Nick Collison or a Udonis Haslem by his local fan base is his pre-injury monster contract, paid out when he was a top 10 option who had just dragged a Clippers team deep into the playoffs after a Sisyphean slog. Usually, it's the Clippers' big FA signings that get hurt, rather than the other way around.

As Brand is healthy now, he was fast fodder on the amnesty wire, with the curious choice of Dallas gobbling him up. On a team that suddenly doesn't have Jason Kidd, Brand is going to lack for consistent touches next to Dirk Nowitzki, and have to make the more than wide open looks he's going to get. He'll help them reach another playoff, but he won't help them avoid another first round exit, and since he comes off the books in 2013, he won't hurt their doomed attempts to bring in a big FA signing of their own.

In and of itself, getting away from EB's contract and giving away value is sour but understandable... until word comes out today that the club has

Item #2: Imported vagabond C and eternal Michael Jordan draft-whiff Kwame Brown to town.

Good grief.

With Brown, the Sixers have a total savant platoon to ride with Spencer Hawes, and yet another reason to wonder whether the front office is on something that isn't prescribed by a reputable physician. Brown's developed a reputation as a defensive stopper in the past few years, mostly because he's (a) still in the league for some reason, (b) athletic enough to be a blown pick so many years ago, and (c) fairly enthusiastic about committing fouls.

But the problem with having him in your rotation is that basketball does not allow for subs on the fly. Brown has to play half of the time on offense, the same way that Hawes has to spend half of his time on defense. We're also all assuming that Kwame is healthy after his latest flameout in Golden State, and that if he is healthy, that he's retained enough of that trademark athleticism to hold some value on defense.

Let's ignore the lifetime of poor play. Or, well, not. Brown being any use at all... is not a really good bet.

But what *is* a really good bet is this: Lavoy Allen will lose minutes to Brown. So will Nicola Vuvevic, who had more than a few moments of promise last year in his rookie campaign. Arnett Moultrie, the #1 pick that they gave up future considerations to the Heat for, just saw his likely minutes go down, maybe all the way to the D League.

And while none of those guys is assured to have a better or longer career than Brown or Hawes, they all offer more in the way of potential. Brown's is long gone, and Hawes' visible lack of heart tells you all you need to know about his future, and the future of any team that gives him minutes.

I don't know if any team in the Association is better off having Brown around, let alone one that needs to develop star-level talent out of their bench guys to have any real chance of replicating last year's Final 8 finish. And there's also this: if the team really thinks that the town's basketball fans are going to give Kwame a long leash, they are smoking something. Something good.

So, um, welcome to town, Kwame. Rent, don't buy. See if you can coach up Allen and Vook to make your stay short and restful. And if you do all of that, I'll be happy to consider you an upgrade over Tony Battie for the role of big man who never plays, and get on board for your post-career future as a rah-rah assistant coach and instructor.

Jordan will overpay you for all of that, right?

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