Brand Stat Study In Mavs' Loss At Philly

The Mavs are under .500 for the first time since Game 9 of last year's Odious Odom Era after Tuesday's 100-98 loss at Philly in which so much went wrong down the stretch. One thing that went right: A rare uptick for Elton Brand, who shifted to the bench and scored a season-best 17 points against his old Sixers mates. Is Brand's solution all about usage? Let's examine:

Going into the night of Elton Brand's return to Philadelphia, it was fair to wonder what's going on with the big fella. A career 18-point, nine-rebound, and almost two block per game guy, Brand has been mired in a stretch where he is averaging career lows nearly across the board.

As an ex-Sixer, the good people of Philadelphia had their pregame questions, too.

It's fair to note that he is being used a bit differently with the Dallas Mavericks than previous stops, as the Amnesty pickup is playing nearly 14 fewer minutes per game than previous stops. It's also notable that his role switched again on Tuesday, as he came off the bench in favor of rookie Jae Crowder jumping into the starting lineup. (Coach Rick Carlisle also shuffled the point-guard deck, with DoJo starting in place of Collison.)

Maybe Brand's 17 points and game-high eight rebounds and assertive work as a rim protector is a sign that he's deserving of more minutes.

"I wish I could've coached Elton one year in his prime, just one,'' said Philly coach Doug Collins, who did supervise Brand in 2010-11 when the former MVP candidate was a 15-points-per-game guy.

Brand wasn't part of the problem on Tuesday. Dallas committing six straight turnovers midway through a fourth quarter than they started while holding the lead was the problem. And the usually reliable O.J. Mayo missing the first of two FTs in the final seconds -- with two makes able to send the game to OT -- was the problem.

But after this game, it's worth examining whether Brand, who has looked awfully sluggish in the early going of this season while averaging just 5.5 points per game, is inching toward deserving more minutes.

Worth noting: Coming in, even stats that don't depend on minutes-played had seen a dip. A career 50-percent shooter from the field, Brand was hitting only 34 percent of his shots on the young season. (He was 5-of-10 from the floor here, with 7-of-8 from the line to bolster his output.)

Is it usage? Is Brand simply going through a natural adjustment to a new team, city and situation? Is Dallas' struggle to be "uptempo'' and still feature guys like Brand and Chris Kaman in halfcourt sets still a major problem? Is Father Time catching up with the 33-year-old? Is it fatherhood, as he and his wife recently became parents to a newborn?

Most likely, the answer lies somewhere in the middle of all those factors.

It has not all been bad for Brand this season. He was brought in to provide gritty interior defense and rebounding, and for the most part he has done that. On post-up plays, he surrenders only 0.9 points per possession to opponents, good for 34th best in the NBA.
Furthermore, he is averaging a respectable 19.1 percent defensive rebounding rate and a 9.7 percent offensive rebounding rate, numbers that place him in the top quarter of the league in both categories.

However, even adjusting for age-related decline, Brand has not been the player Dallas thought they were getting thus far. Perhaps the 76ers knew something others did not or perhaps Brand is still adjusting to a new environment. (His family hasn't made the move to Dallas and is still based in Philly.)

This game -- in which Dallas dropped to 7-8, the first dip below .500 since opening 4-5 last year -- is encouraging regarding Brand if not for the club as a whole, which now faces the second night of a b-2-b on Wednesday in Chicago.

"We gave the fans some excitement,'' said Brand, who seemed charged up to face his old pals. "It definitely wasn't a full success.''

The same can be said for Brand's work as a Mav. It's been interesting (if not "exciting'') and it certainly hasn't been a "full success.'' The result in Philly is a microcosm of Dallas' season so far ... and it is hoped Brand working to be in a position to succeed in order to maximize his talents can push the Mavs closer to "full success.''

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