Wednesday, July 9

Et Tu, Brand?

In what some would call a shocking development, it appears Elton Brand has agreed verbally to a five year, $82 million deal with the Philadelphia 76ers. This also accompanies the news that fellow former Clipper Corey Maggette will ink a five year, $50 million contract with the Golden State Warriors. This turn of events is the culmination of a dizzying episode of the NBA free-agent moratorium period where teams and players can talk, but deals cannot be announced until today.

It all started with the Beard Baron announcing he would opt out of his deal in Golden State for a five year, $65 million deal with the Clips. This seemed to entice Brand to stay, who had apparently opted into free agency to free cap space for L.A. to sign a proven point guard. No one knows the extent of what was verbally agreed upon between Davis and Brand or Brand and the Clippers, but before long it was rumored that Davis’s former team in Golden State was prepared to offer Brand $90 million over the next five years.

Maggette never figured into the Clippers plan. He stated he received no offer from them to re-sign him. He flirted with the Celtics for awhile; in what would have been a monster signing if no other team was willing to pony up beyond the mid-level exception. But it was Golden State who jumped in after losing Davis. It is not known if the Brand deal was ever a viable option or a ploy to put pressure on the Clippers. Either way Golden State loses a veteran point guard, fails to sign a dominant big man, and ends up with a player whose talent seems to reside in scoring alone.

Philly was honing in on Brand all along it seems now. They traded Rodney Carney and Calvin Booth to Minnesota to free cap space, and brought Brand to dine with 76ers personnel. With the deal announced yesterday, the Clippers and their fans had to be sunk. The Clips showed some promise under Brand, reaching the playoffs in 2006 and pushing the Suns to seven games in the Western Conference Semis. With Davis and Brand running the show and post support from Chris Kayman and the addition of Eric Gordon, L.A. seemed to have a legitimate shot to at least reach the playoffs in the tough West of the NBA.

Now, despite having a large amount of cap room to sign a power forward, they will not land someone as complete as Brand (20.3 PPG, 10.2 RPG career). The two options being discussed are Josh Smith(17.2 PPG, 8.2 RPG last season) from the Hawks and Emeka Okafor(13.8PPG, 10.7 PPG last season) from the Bobcats. Smith is meeting with the team today, and while he can fill it up on the offensive end, he is not the rebounder Brand is and at twenty pounds lighter is not the better defender either. Okafor can match if not exceed Brand on the defensive end, and like Brand is able to produce double-double points and rebounds. His scoring cannot match up with Brand though. The Bobcats more than have the ability to match any offer from the Clippers, which means Okafor’s bank account, may soon have a large deposit.

This is the second time a former Duke power forward has allegedly backed out on a verbal agreement with his former team. In 2004, Carlos Boozer was allowed to opt out of the final year of his contract with the Cavaliers with the apparent notion from the Cavs that he would re-sign a six year deal. Boozer ended up signing with the Jazz for six years and $70 million. As much as the media claims to know what agreements are made off the record between team management and players, there is no way to know what is said or agreed upon. It becomes a two-sided argument and one must decide to believe one side or the other or simply resign to the fact that it will never be known. The certainty is that a lot of talk around Brand was that he loved the L.A. community, was active in local charity, and wanted to bring the team out of its losing reputation. That ship, it appears, has now sailed.

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