It’s natural to ask why.
At the age of 37, with plenty of money in the bank and a distinguished career completed, why would you want to come back into the grind of the NBA? Why would you want to join the worst team in the league? Why would you want to subject your body to the physical strain going up against players 15 years younger?
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“I missed it,” Elton Brand said.
The 37-year-old forward finally broke into a recent game against the Miami Heat and in what is now his 17th NBA season. He scored eight points and grabbed four rebounds in 14 minutes for the 76ers
He thoroughly enjoyed being a mentor on this team, which has won only nine games thus far in a massive rebuild under Jerry Colangelo and Sam Hinkie. Helping the young players and being a part of the solution was enticing to Brand, who is truly embracing his role.
“I wanted it to be organic,” Brand said. “The opportunity’s there for me. I didn’t want to take Carl Landry’s minutes trying to extend his career. I didn’t want to take Richaun [Holmes’ playing time] trying to prove that he’s an NBA player. But now we’re fighting for wins and if that’s what coach wants, that’s who I report to. If that’s what he wants, I’m ready.”
With Jahlil Okafor out for the season and the likes of Robert Covington and Jerami Grant going through concussion protocol, the Sixers desperately need Brand’s ability in every way — ranging from points and rebounds to leadership.
“I will do anything I can to help them,” Brand said. “That’s why I’m here. You realize that you may not be as fast, you may not be as athletic, but you can want it. You could just play hard. For now, that’s good enough to help. I want to help.”
Brand is helping in so many ways.
From setting a proper screen to boxing out for a rebound to communicating on defense, Brand functions as a coach on the court. All of those aspects have been noticeable to coach Brett Brown.
“He’s amazing to me because I really didn’t know what to expect,” Brown said. “I thought he had practiced well, but we practice so infrequently, you’re not making that judgment on a high volume of appearances. You’re reminded of how good he was because he’s so smart. He really knows how to play.”
Brand isn’t expecting his career to linger into next season. It’s about the here and now. Being coaxed briefly out of retirement was not an easy decision.
He’s happy and at peace, though. No need to ask why about anything.
“I love the game,” Brand said. “I love this franchise. I wanted to help and I could. I’ll do all I can.”