News that Elton Brand is day-to-day -- and out for Friday night's game in Detroit -- with a hamstring injury only underscores the struggles Philadelphia is having trying to find the right niche for their prized free-agent big man.
The Sixers were a running team last year and made the playoffs by outhustling opponents with a somewhat unorthodox style. They needed to play that way because they didn't have a consistent post scorer to play through. Now that they have one, they don't know what to do with him.
The Sixers are 8-11 with Brand well below his career averages in scoring (16.7) and blocks (1.5). A 50 percent career shooter, Brand is hovering around 45 percent from the field.
"If we had to do that deal over, I’d do it in a second," team president Ed Stefanski said. "Every game he’s getting better and better. I'm very happy with Elton Brand -- 17 points, 10 rebounds, 1.5 blocks a game. He’s giving it to us."
And in truth, it's not just Brand. Andre Iguodala was struggling badly before snapping out of it the past two games. Lou Williams, a bright spot last season, is shooting 35 percent. Coach Mo Cheeks changed things up in the past two games -- the Sixers beat the Bulls and lost to the Lakers -- with Iguodala handling the ball more and wing players attacking the basket. This is a team really struggling to find its identity. Stefanski hinted Wednesday that he wants Cheeks to play a smaller lineup more often. But if so, why'd the Sixers give Brand $80 million?
Before Wednesday night's game Lakers coach Phil Jackson put his finger right on the pulse of the problem. First, Brand can't possibly be 100 percent after missing all but the final eight games last season with an Achilles injury. Second, a team that is used to playing without a low-post scorer needs time to figure out how to play that way.
"The NBA game’s evolving to more high-post centers and more unloading the post and giving players more opportunities to penetrate through dribble and opportunities to run guys in through the wings," Jackson said. "Having a static post or guys who play down on the post does present problems for drivers and penetrators."
Just as the Sixers.