76ers’ Brand finally giving bang for big bucks

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He suffered a separated right shoulder, and finished with averages of 13.8 points and 8.8 rebounds in only 29 games. That came a year after he missed all but eight games in his final season with the Clippers because of a torn Achillies’ tendon.

“I’d come to a city where there was so much fanfare, and ‘this guy’s a double-double’ and all that,” Brand said. “Then you’re hurt, you don’t get the opportunity and things start sliding.”

Year 2 was no better.

Former coach Eddie Jordan, with his ill-conceived Princeton offense, buried Brand on the bench even before the season completely unraveled and the Sixers spiraled toward the draft lottery. He lost his starting job, sat out fourth quarters, and started only 57 of 76 games in a season that cost Jordan his job and Stefanski his title as team president.

Riding the bench in uniform hurt Brand more than sitting there in a suit because he was injured.

“It was much worse,” he said. “Just sitting there in the fourth quarter without the opportunity this late in your career and knowing you can still help.”

Brand lost support after the dismal season from fans fed up with another Sixers team far from a championship.

“I’m a realist,” Brand said. “You’re losing, you’re in last place in the East, which is not that strong, you’re not even close to a double-double. It is what it is. I just wanted the opportunity to show I can play and we can win.”

He’s doing both for a the resurgent Sixers. Brand has 15 double-doubles after only seven last season. He is shooting 52 percent from the field, and the Sixers are responding with a 14-10 record after a 3-13 start. The Sixers have already matched their home win total last season (12) and are percentage points ahead of Indiana for seventh in the East.

“He’s now a 15-9 guy instead of 20-10, but that 15 could be more if he got more shots,” Stefanski said. “But he’s playing within the system and he’s doing a good job with that.”

Brand’s only missed game this season was because of a league suspension in November for committing a flagrant foul. He was whistled for another one against the Bobcats _ but potentially saved the win with a block on Kwame Brown with 49 seconds left in regulation. Asked if he could have made the same athletic play a year ago, Brand responded with humor: “I’m not sure, I wasn’t out there in the fourth quarter.”

Brand, who turns 32 in March, reported to training camp in his best shape in years. He ditched junk food and started bicycling, determined to show he had the stamina to last a whole season.

So far, it’s working out.

“By the time we do make the playoff run,” Brand said, “I’ll be even better.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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