Elton Brand spoke with reporters today, his first media availability since appearing alongside Brett Brown on March 11th, only a few moments after the NBA season was postponed indefinitely. The Sixers had defeated the Detroit Pistons about 20 minutes prior.
There wasn’t much to say then, of course, not when everybody was just becoming aware of Rudy Gobert’s positive COVID-19 test and still trying to grasp what the coming months would look like. Fast forward to May 5th, now, and we got 30 minutes on the phone with the Sixers’ general manager.
Some notes and some full quotes, after the jump:
His expectations for what a resumed season might look like –
Right now I’m on a weekly call with (NBA Commissioner) Adam Silver, that he is leading. I’m on a committee for returning to play and they’re looking at all options. It’s too early to speculate on whether it’s going to be this year, but it’s going to be based on safety and health. To steal a line from Adam directly, he said it’s going to be based on data, not a date. Then we’ll figure out everything else from there.
On the potential of an online draft, similar to what the NFL did –
(VP of Scouting) Vince Rozman, I give him a lot of credit, he ran our pre-draft process last year and is doing a great job again this year. A lot of deep dives, a lot of film work, I’ve been talking to agents, families, players, and I have some calls today. The five, potentially five picks, we think this is a deep draft and we’re excited. We were one of the first teams to pull our scouts from the road so we could get some video if it got to the point where we are today. Absolutely preparing every day and we’re really excited about this draft and potentially five picks.
It’s been two months now; what are players able to do and how have you been able to help them?
We’ve been communicating with our players weekly. For those who didn’t have equipment, which was most of them, we brought them bikes, two or three ellipticals and switched them out. Workouts that we can send, I’m just making sure that their physical health and also mental health are in great shape. But it’s going to take a ramp up (period). The league, the NBPA, we all have to figure out an amount of time (for that). I don’t know how much time it’s going to be, once it’s deemed safe, but it’s definitely gonna need some time to get back in the gym, get your legs back, get your wind back, and have a healthy and safe return.
If the season can’t resume, does he have enough to evaluate the team and coaching staff and make decisions from there?
It’s very hard to speculate on what changes would be made if we didn’t have a season. Right now I’m just focusing on making sure the guys are ready physically and mentally. I can tell you that we’re preparing as if the season is coming back. I speak to Brett Brown every day on Facetime still and he has his staff preparing for the regular season and playoffs. There are just so many unknowns, but he’s prepping, I’m prepping, and I hope we do get a chance to play in some way once it’s deemed safe.
On training facilities reopening, and a fair way to do it –
On the GM calls, it was basically, ‘hey, we’d rather have our players at our facilities, instead of going out to other gyms.‘ Because we know we’d have a better chance at keeping ours safe. The NBA agreed and sent memos, probably 13 to 14 pages of how to keep everything clean, and to be clear, this would be voluntary, no bench coaches or anything like that. It was about letting players get out individually, small groups, time in the gym to shoot, workout, get a sweat. I wish everyone could open at the same time, but that’s just not the reality with the health issues around the country.
I’ll give you a couple of bullet points here:
- Ben Simmons (back injury) is doing very good and Brand is optimistic he’ll be able to play if the season continues. They’ve been able to arrange treatment and rehab for him during the COVID-19 shutdown.
- One of the veterans started a Zoom happy hour so the team can remain in touch.
- The Blue Coats’ facility in Wilmington is an option for training if necessary.
- Too early to speculate on how COVID affects ownership, in regard to money and how it affects his job – “I know they want to win and they’ve given me the green light.”
- On replacing Marc Eversley, Brand says he’s happy with Alex Rucker, Ned Cohen, Sergi Oliva, and Vince Rozman. “If there’s talent out there, we will look at it, but there’s no timeline.”
- After 20 years of traveling in the NBA, he’s enjoying the opportunity right now to spend time with family.
Later on the call, I asked about the idea of playing in empty arenas. Keep in mind that the Sixers were excellent at home, but poor on the road. Would playing without fans be a competitive advantage, disadvantage, or just a wash?
Brand: It’s to be determined. We were really great at home, number one team in the NBA at home actually, so we know what our fans provide us. If it is at a neutral site, I don’t know how our players are going to respond and what that means for us, but I know they’ll be prepared to play in any situation once it’s deemed safe. It’s hard to tell. I would lean toward the home court, and they’re going to kick some ass.
Crossing Broad: Going back to your playing days, do you think you personally could get up for fan-less games?
Brand: It’s interesting, because I’ve seen practices that are brutal. You just go at it and bang, foul, sweat and blood, and you know, you compete. So I think the competitive juices (are there), once things are really on the line, whether that’s the regular season, whether that’s playoffs and especially when you get to the championship, I think regardless if there’s fans, we’re going to compete. We’re going to be ready to compete. Even pick up (games) in the summer, I’ve seen guys foul players on our own team and say ‘Why don’t you foul our opponent like that?’ I think we’ll be prepared and we can get the juices flowing. Of course this will have to be led by the league office and the NBPA, and it will have to be deemed safe to play.
One final quote, this one on the Jackie MacMullen ESPN article about Ben Simmons, the jump shot, and motivation:
Ben is already a two-time All-Star, dynamic player on both ends, and we’re going to encourage him to shoot. I think once he unlocks that part of his game, that’s going to open it up for his growth, become even more unstoppable and help our team. But where he is as a player, he’s very dominant, hyper-focused on both ends to help us win, and he wants to make the right play. At times he feels like that might not be the right play. But he’s going to grow into that, and I’m more on Brett’s side with that. If he just shoots a few, it goes away, in my opinion.
Thank you, and have a great day.