The few fans who remained to the end of Philadelphia's 93-80 loss to Utah on Tuesday night extended a harsh greeting to
The disappointment in the 76ers' 2-5 start is premature, as were many of the preseason predictions that Brand would instantly lead his new team to contention. Brand looks like he's still recovering from the Achilles surgery that sidelined him for 74 games last year with the Clippers. The 14.7 points and 1.4 blocks he has averaged through seven games are shaping up as career lows, in contrast with his impressive 10.9 rebounds.
"I was 100 percent, but you still need to test it 100 percent,'' Brand told me last week when I asked about his training camp with the Sixers. "Mentally, it was kind of tough.''
Apart from regaining his confidence physically, Brand and his new teammates are still getting to know one another. After leading the Sixers in scoring with 19.9 points last year,
After a decade spent mainly with rudderless teams, Brand came to Philadelphia with the goal of playing well past April each year.
"I saw the roster and they were a running-and-gunning-type thing,'' he said. "No disrespect to the players here, but I felt like I could help them if they needed to slow it down. If they needed a bucket in the post or a mid-range shot or rebounding, I could fill that.''
The young Sixers, however, lack shooting and they're trying to learn how to play around a post scorer like Brand.
"Right now, we're not at that [elite] level,'' he admitted. "Absolutely, we're just not. We haven't had the battles together. But I think we have the talent to do that, and the guys who want to do that.''
After seven years with the Clippers, Brand doesn't mind the occasional booings from Philadelphia fans.
"They know sports, they know plays and players, and I love it,'' he said. "They want us to win and you've got to step up to that challenge. You get a lot of attention, and the onus is on you.
"I remember [in 2005-06] when I was having a great season, the Clippers were having a great season and everything was about us -- and then
Brand is a two-time All-Star with career averages of 20.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. Yet his teams have reached the playoffs once in nine years. What makes him confident that he can eventually lead the 76ers toward June?
"I just believe it because I've worked so hard for it, and that's what I'm working toward,'' he said. "We have the right group of guys that wants to win. Andre Iguodala is one of the most unselfish ballplayers I've ever played with. Andre Miller, we already know how he can pass the ball. In playing with guys like that, you want to win for each other.
"It's the toughest thing to do, but it's a team effort. You look at Boston last year: Did
Brand, 29, understands that he must hasten the development of Iguodala, second-year forward
"We have to have a sense of urgency around here,'' he said. "I'm not 30 yet, so we've got to do it now.
"At 33, 34, 35, you see guys going around to other teams to try to win a ring. I don't want to do that. I want to help this team to grow.''
One month before the draft, no mention was being made of
"He has a chance to be a hell of a player,'' Kings coach
Thompson was a 6-6 junior at Lenape High School in New Jersey when he was recruited by local Rider of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference as the larger programs ignored him. He grew five inches while maintaining his ball skills, and after his junior year of college, he knew the NBA was paying attention.
"I went from not being drafted to [possibly going in] the second round, and then as my [senior] year got better, they were saying late first round,'' Thompson said. "In the draft workouts, I started doing well, and then I went against guys who were projected higher than me and I did well, and that's when my name started getting mixed up with the Kings and the Warriors [who had the 14th pick].
"You don't see guys from my area and the school I went to being projected as high as I was. But that's good. All of my life I've been under the radar, and it hasn't been bad. It makes me work harder to not have a high projection and then prove everybody wrong and be a late bloomer.''
Last week, close to 100 fans from New Jersey visited Philadelphia to watch Thompson go for 17 points, six rebounds and five assists in a loss to the 76ers. They were cheering every time he had the ball, and singing out his name afterward.
"Playing in the NBA was goal I always wanted as a little kid,'' he said. "My dad said people asked him who's his favorite player in the NBA. And he had a little tear when he said, 'It's my son.' For that to happen, it feels good.''
Thompson and second-year center
"He was blessed and he grew a couple of inches,'' Theus said of Thompson's years at Rider. "Unfortunately, his feet grew too. Because he wears like a size 20 or something like that. He's still getting used to them.''
Amid the ongoing congestion of eight games in 12 days -- the worst stretch coach
Allen is among those rare wing players who doesn't dwell on the three-point line. Like Richard Hamilton and
"We tell him every day, We don't care about your three-point range," Rivers said. "I use [
Expect Allen to improve over the course of the season as his confidence rises to the level of two years ago, when he was an explosive scorer and assertive perimeter defender before the injury.
"If it's an open shot, I'll take it,'' said Allen, who is 0-for-8 from the three-point line. "If I miss it, I'm doing other things to help the team: I'm rebounding, trying to get steals, stops, assists. As long as I'm doing what my part of the puzzle is, I feel good.''