Philadelphia 76ers: Fans Should Embrace Elton Brand

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistMarch 24, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 16:  Elton Brand #42 of the Philadelphia 76ers scrambles for the ball while being grabbed by a diving Udonis Haslem #40 of the Miami Heat at the Wells Fargo Center on March 16, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Heat won 84-78. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

When the Philadelphia 76ers signed Elton Brand to a five-year contract worth $80 million in the summer of 2008, feelings were mixed among the Philadelphia faithful.

While some said the Sixers were busy overpaying for Brand, Atlanta power forward Josh Smith was busy re-signing with the Atlanta Hawks for just under $60 million. Given his athleticism and speed it just made sense for the Sixers to give Smith a look. They failed to do so.

In his first season with the Sixers, Brand played in just 29 games before sitting out the remainder of the season with a serious shoulder injury.

In 2009, Brand played in 76 games, although his numbers would begin to drop off. Fans were getting anxious. The Sixers were a young team with no leadership under coach Eddie Jordan, and the signing of Brand appeared to be one that had gone terribly wrong.

Averaging just 13 points per game in 30 minutes of work per night in 2009, fans became wary of a player who appeared to be raking in the dollars well past his prime.

Then came 2010. Under new head coach Doug Collins, Brand found new life. Brand played, and started in, 81 games in the 2010-2011 season, missing only one game due to a suspension.

Brand appeared fresh and full of life, playing inspired offense and defense on a team that stressed cohesion and selflessness before super-stardom.

In his fourth season with the Sixers, Brand has seen his fair share of ups and downs.

Given the lockout-shortened schedule, Brand knew he would see a decrease in minutes, especially early in the season against weaker opponents. So far this season Brand is averaging just 28 minutes per game, down from about 34 last season.

Although his minutes are down, Brand has proven he's as effective as ever, especially when going up against stiff competition.

Most notably, in the Sixers' past two contests against divisional opponents, Brand has shown up in a big way. In a loss to the New York Knicks on Wednesday, Brand posted a double-double (12 points and 12 rebounds), and added five blocks to an impressive stat line.

In last night's victory over the Boston Celtics, Brand led all Philadelphia players in scoring with 20 points on 10-of-15 shooting in just 26 minutes of playing time.

While Brand may be unappealing to fans who prefer the Sixers' up-tempo style of play, he's the perfect veteran leader for this team.

Brand provides stability to a Sixer team that often plays ahead of themselves, and he plays stingy defense each and every night.

Brand does all of the dirty work and he does it quietly, which is what makes him a true team player. For many young teams around the league, a player like Elton Brand would work wonders.