With Speights out, Brand looking for more minutes with Sixers

Elton Brand says he's capable of playing 40 minutes; Eddie Jordan isn't so sure.
Elton Brand says he's capable of playing 40 minutes; Eddie Jordan isn't so sure.
Posted: November 17, 2009

WITH TOP RESERVE Marreese Speights sidelined perhaps until after the New Year with a partial tear of the MCL in his left knee, 76ers coach Eddie Jordan is going to have to find someone, or several someones, to pick up the slack of 23.4 minutes, 13 points and 6.4 rebounds that Speights provided.

First candidate is Elton Brand. The 6-9 power forward has seen limited minutes so far this season for the 4-6 Sixers, and has been relegated to the bench during the fourth quarter of recent games while Speights has been gobbling up those minutes.

"We'll see, we'll see," Brand said when asked if he thought it would be him getting more minutes. "Hopefully it is. I've just got to go out there and be prepared for it. Something's got to give, something's got to change soon. Whatever happens, we need to win. That's the most important part."

Brand, who is averaging just 27.1 minutes a game thus far, was then asked if he's physically ready to play an abundance of minutes after missing most of the past two seasons with injuries.

"Yeah, absolutely," he affirmed. "I haven't been. Some games have been 20 minutes or 18. But now the minutes are there. I'll be prepared. Yeah, I could still play 40 minutes."

Minutes later, though, it was confirmed by Jordan that won't be happening.

"No," said Jordan when asked if Brand is a 38-to-40-minute per game player. "He's never had 2 years of injuries [before], so he's not a 40-minute player now. I mean, you can put him out there for 40 minutes, but I don't know how effective he's going to be. I know he won't be effective in those minutes because it's a process with his coming back after 2 years. That's why he hasn't played. I would put him in the game if I knew he was high-level in the fourth quarter. It's just not there."

At the end of yesterday's practice at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Brand was playing the center spot with the second team.

"We have him playing some five [center] with the second unit," Jordan said. "He hasn't done that, he's always been a forward. So that's why he's been in that position in practice."

Then Jordan was asked if that meant there would be a change in the starting lineup.

"Um, [long pause] . . . who knows?" Jordan said. "Nothing is going to change until Wednesday, if there is a change."

Center/forward Jason Smith should also see more extensive playing time during Speights' absence. Smith and Speights are similar in that both are capable outside shooters, which would bring defenders out to the perimeter and open the lane a little more for drives to the basket. Smith doesn't score inside as consistently as Speights, which leaves the team with a big hole at inside scoring.

"He's physical and he's got length," Jordan said of Smith. "Some things that you can't make up for in the physical department you can at least reach over some people and jump over some people. He's athletic and he's physical and he's 7-foot.

"Offensively he can make threes, he can make perimeter shots. He can dribble, he can make passes on the perimeter.

"But defensively, now that Marreese is out, he's going to have to defend the post at the same time, if he'll play some four [power forward]. This has been a problem, too. Our bigs don't contain the dribble against small fours. They drive on us and we can't close out on those guys and contain them. That's been a problem for us. So hopefully he can put it together and contain some people on the perimeter. He's probably our best team defender. He's better than Marreese defensively."

Jordan also pointed out forward Thaddeus Young as someone who would have to make more of a contribution.

"Thad's got to get better physically," Jordan said. "At least if you can't be physical, be relentless. If you're not strong, be relentless with your quickness and your speed. We'll see if that is going to be the case."

Speights on injury

Marreese Speights talked with reporters after practice, wearing an immovable brace on his left knee.

"It's disappointing, but at the same time when I get back I'll be stronger and healthier," said Speights, who is averaging 13 points and 6.4 rebounds. "This is the first time I'll miss a game. It's hard watching the team playing and practicing."

Speights injured the knee in Saturday's 94-88 loss at Chicago.

"I stole the ball from [Brad] Miller, my foot planted and then he ran into my leg. I felt it pop. When I fell, I was like 'dang,' then I couldn't run."

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