Thumb injury sidelines Sixers' Brand

Posted: February 22, 2012

MEMPHIS - As if the 76ers haven't had enough problems lately - last night's loss was their fourth in a row and sixth in eight games - they've now lost starting forward Elton Brand due to a thumb injury.

Brand sat out last night's 89-76 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, and will be shelved tonight against the Houston Rockets. He originally sprained his right thumb earlier this month and missed two games because of it. He had been playing through the pain since, but hurt it again in Sunday's loss at Minnesota when he tried to block a dunk attempt by 6-11, 290-pound Nikola Pekovic.

"Hopefully over the All-Star break that will give it a chance to calm that thing down," said Sixers coach Doug Collins.

After tonight's game, the Sixers won't get together again until they practice on Monday in Detroit. They'll face the Pistons the next night in their first game back after the break.

In Brand's place, Collins decided to start little-used Andres Nocioni, who had played in just eight games this season. Nocioni played 6 minutes and collected two points and two rebounds.

"He's worked very hard and been a real pro for us," Collins said of the 8-year vet. "We think we need some activity."

Nocioni obviously welcomed the call.

"There's a reason why you need to keep in shape and work hard every night," he said. "That is what I tried to do. I try to do my job, that's it. I'm pretty sure I'm in good shape and I'll be able to run the floor. I'm fine."

Time for Speights

As he made his way to the court for his pregame workout, former 76er Marreese Speights shared greetings with almost every worker he passed in the hallways of the FedEx Forum before getting a big hug from an elderly female worker just before he entered the court.

Speights, who spent three-plus seasons with the Sixers before getting traded to Memphis as part of a three-team deal on Jan. 4, always has been a lovable guy. In the one-plus seasons that Doug Collins coached the Florida product, he gave Speights more compliments than playing time. So when the deal was completed, Collins was genuinely happy that Speights would have a chance to get playing time. Not nearly as excited as Speights, though.

"That's one of the best feelings in your life, to get a new chance in a new city," Speights said. "Everything everybody ever said about you goes out the door until the team you're with now proves you wrong. All the things that people said about me in Philly, I came here and people said, 'I don't know why they said that.' "

Speights played in his 28th game for the Grizzlies last night, getting his 26th start. He scored 12 points in 21 minutes. He has been a key cog for a team that is missing forward Zach Randolph with a torn right medial collateral ligament, averaging close to nine points and just under seven rebounds in 23 minutes.

"He's been great," said Grizzlies All-Star center Marc Gasol. "He's finding his shot easier, he knows where to be. It's a process and he's getting through it. We saw that he has a lot of talent and that he can shoot it a lot. We need him to do more things sometimes. He knows that, because he's capable of doing that. We don't ask him to do something we don't think he's capable of. We ask him to do stuff we saw that we really think that he can do. He's getting better and better every day and that's what we need."

Much like Speights needed to get out of Philadelphia.

"Everything has been great here," Speights said. "They've welcomed me, the fans welcomed me and the coaches and players. I just go out there and play my basketball. I can't be another [Randolph]. He does what he does and I do what I do. It just gives me a chance to come out here and do what I do to help win games."

Unlike Philadelphia, Memphis is using Speights primarily as a power forward instead of a center. It is, he said, a more natural fit for him.

"I can stretch their offense, get more bigs on the floor. This is a hard-defending team so I just go out there and do the things that I do - take charges and rebound. That's my natural position, power forward, because I can put the ball on the ground and shoot it and all that. But when guys come in like Thaddeus Young and players like that, then I'd rather play center. [In Memphis], I'm usually playing with another big guy."

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