Playing for respect and pride

Elton Brand says he is "absolutely ready to play."
Elton Brand says he is "absolutely ready to play."

Brand wants the Sixers to be on par with Philly's other successful teams.

Posted: September 28, 2010

Elton Brand admires the success of the Philadelphia sports teams. He sees the Phillies on the verge of clinching a division title, the Flyers coming off a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, and the Eagles now atop the NFC East.

The Sixers forward wants that, too, especially after last season's 27-55 record.

"We definitely want to get back to respectability and have the city be proud of us," Brand said Monday from Sixers media day at the Wells Fargo Center.

Brand enters his third season with the organization noticeably leaner. He spent the summer swimming and bicycle riding, intent on shedding weight to reach the 255-pound mark set by new coach Doug Collins.

Brand is listed at 6-foot-8, 254 pounds, though he said Monday it's been "a few years" since he's been that trim.

Brand, 31, will benefit from added quickness, higher leaping ability, and mobility on defense. So far, his teammates have taken notice.

"He came in today in great shape," guard Lou Williams said. "He ran the mile. He was under his time."

Still, the key will be staying healthy for Brand and third-year forward Thaddeus Young, who missed 15 games last season with a fractured right thumb. Neither has played a complete 82-game schedule.

"It was very hard," Young said about last season. "You just have to go out there and take it and then brush it off your shoulders when you come out for the next season. Now that's all behind me."

Young, who was taken 12th overall in the 2007 draft, said Monday he is fully healed from the injury and wants to become an all-star. Brand has been there before, twice. He was last chosen in 2006, when he missed only three games for the Clippers and led the team to the post-season.

The following year, he missed only two games. But in 2007-08, he ruptured his left Achilles tendon during an off-season workout. He played in the final eight games of the regular season to conclude his tenure with the Clippers.

Brand got off to a slow start with the Sixers in 2008 when he dislocated his right shoulder, which eventually required season-ending surgery. He returned last season and played in 76 games. Brand averaged 13.1 points and 6.1 rebounds. Now he returns to training camp refreshed.

"A new beginning, a fresh start," Brand said. "We're hungry. I'm hungry. I'm excited to play, and excited to play injury-free. Absolutely, ready to play."

In seven years in Los Angeles, Brand's Clippers played second fiddle to local sports teams, particularly the Lakers. Yet toward the end of his tenure there, he helped the organization snap a nine-year playoff drought, which ended with the Clippers one loss away from reaching the Western Conference finals.

This season, Brand hopes for a similar resurgence.

"I've been down before," Brand, an 11-year veteran, said, citing the playoff exit in 2006. "It's the Clippers - we had tough seasons. It was down. Similar situation that I am in now. I'm a little older, but I'm also much wiser. It was a terrible season [last year]. We were embarrassed by it as a team. We have a lot of pride, so guys are working very hard to turn this thing around."


Contact staff writer Mario Aguirre at 215-854-4550 or maguirre@phillynews.com.

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