Elton Brand: Why He Had to Become A 76er

Ravi AntaniCorrespondent IJuly 10, 2008

It seemed to be tough to decipher whether Elton Brand chose the Philadelphia 76ers because of money or because of wins.  The L.A. Times quotes Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy as saying, "After I supposedly gave him a take-it-or-leave-it offer, we raised the offer to $75 million and $81 million." 

That clears things up.

Brand's contract with Philadelphia lands right around $80 million.  And so we know now that his decision was not about money.  It was about playing for a winning franchise.

When one week ago Brand said his intention was to stay in L.A., there was no offer from the 76ers.  But when they came into the picture, the opportunity presented itself to win and win now.  So the game changed completely for Brand.  It had to. 

He's had too much vacation time in the spring.  Elton Brand left to be part of a winning team.

Now, I understand why Clippers fans feel a sense of betrayal.  It must definitely sting to go from possibly making the playoffs to being a lottery lock.  I feel for them, and I don't blame them for hating Brand.

But if I were in Brand's position, I see myself possibly making the same decision.  This is not a Carlos Boozer betrayal.  In Boozer's case, there was a verbal agreement, which means he looked at a contract and agreed to sign it at 12 a.m. 

Brand did nothing of the sort here.  There was no guarantee.  His status was in limbo as soon as he opted out, and it was more unstable when Golden State made its offer.  That's where it stood when Philadelphia came into the picture. 

So it became about victories.

Those are the stakes here.  Struggling to make the playoffs in 2010 versus being an elite NBA team in 2010.  If we're talking about respectable decisions, the latter has to win out, especially since Dunleavy said himself that money couldn't have been an issue.

When the Los Angeles Clippers nabbed Baron Davis, they suddenly became a vastly improved team with a lot of potential.  But nevertheless, huge holes remained on the roster, and the bench support was suspect. 

Elton Brand turned down more money from the Warriors, however, because he felt like the Clippers had a better shot at winning.  The media applauded him for choosing victories over money. 

Now, when he does it again, they flip out?

And were the Brand-Davis Clippers really a lock for the playoffs?  Last year's top eight in the West don't look like they are getting much worse, and Portland is only getting better. 

Those would-be Clippers were still be doomed to the fate that the last 10 years brought them: struggling to grab a playoff spot.  Even if they squeaked in, they'd be after-thoughts.  Elton Brand has been an after-thought for his entire career.

Imagine it.  You go into training camp projected to be a lottery team, and you step onto the court expected to lose more times than not.  That's how you're spending your livelihood.  With your team failing.

That sense of defeat is the entirety of Brand's career, with the exception of one season.  Year after year, his team vies for a spot and misses, or doesn't have a shot at all.  He's experienced losing season after losing season with little hope for a deep playoff run, let alone a championship. 

And that's what he was going to have to suffer through for yet another year.

And then came the Sixers.  They had a core that exploded this past season and gave the Detroit Pistons a big scare in the playoffs.  Their only big hole was at power forward, and Brand's style of play is perfect to fill it.  So now he sees an opportunity to be a lock for the playoffs, and even a contender in a year or two. 

Think about how good that sounds to Elton Brand.  And to Sixers fans.