Elton Brand, who will be the Hawks’ backup center this season, has appeared in four of the team’s five preseason games and has averaged 2.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 20 minutes. (Reuters)
ATLANTA — Elton Brand tells the story, with his big smile, of when he was first greeted by a new Hawks teammate.
The 34-year-old Brand signed with Atlanta to play his 15th NBA season this summer.
“It’s funny,” Brand said. “When I got here Kyle Korver was like ‘Man, good to see you. I’m glad you are here.’ I’m thinking he’s glad I’m on the team. He’s like ‘Man, I’m just glad I’m not the oldest guy anymore!’”
The Hawks are counting on Brand’s veteran presence — on and off the court. He will serve primarily as Al Horford’s backup at center despite also being undersized at 6-foot-9, 254 pounds. Despite 932 career NBA games, Brand has shown he has something left in the tank during the preseason. He has appeared in four of the team’s five games. He has averaged 2.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 20 minutes. He had seven blocks in the Hawks’ exhibition win over the Bobcats.
Brand was the No. 1 overall selection in the 1999 draft. He admits to being surprised at his longevity — especially when the looks back at his draft class. He is one of just seven of the 58 draftees still playing in the league. He is joined by Andre Miller, Shawn Marion, Jason Terry, Metta World Peace, Andrei Kirilenko and Manu Ginobili, the only second-rounder still active.
Brand did miss significant portions of two seasons with an Achillies and shoulder injury. Maybe those injuries lessened the wear and tear on his body but he said he currently feels great. It’s one of the reasons he spent the offseason reflecting on his career before deciding to play another season. He signed a one-year, $4 million contract with the Hawks this summer.
“I love to play but you just have to weigh being away from your family and how your body feels,” Brand said. “If you can play, you have that ego. I don’t want get too many DNPs. I want to play. I want to come and help.”
Playing for the Bulls, Clippers, 76ers and Mavericks, Brand has career averages of 17.4 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.8 blocks in 35.2 minutes. Among active players, he ranks second in offensive rebounds (3,170), fifth in blocks (1,707), seventh in total rebounds (8,516), 14th in field goals made (6,347) and 17th in points (16,242).
General manager Danny Ferry called Brand “a welcomed addition to our locker room.” It’s there that Brand may be counted on as much as his playing ability. After the Hawks fell behind by as many as 17 points in the first half of Sunday’s exhibition game against the Grizzlies, DeMarre Carroll gathered the team to implore them to play with more energy.
“After I said my little piece, I went to Elton because I know he’s been in the league,” Carroll said. “Maybe it will come better if it comes from you, you being established and have played in this league a long time.”
Brand deflects any notion he is the de facto leader of the Hawks. Knowing full well it is a cliche, he says leadership is about the team and that on any given day someone else may be the one to speak up. It is something he learned from the likes of Randy Brown, Dickey Simpkins, Sam Cassell, Tony Battie and Derek Fisher. They were all veteran teammates that imparted their wisdom.
“They were vet guys who have played a lot of minutes and may not have been the stars of the team at the time but they had a lot to say,” Brand said. “I saw how those guys led.”
Brand has not ruled out a 16th season. He said he will wait and decide after this campaign if he is able and willing to do it all over again.
“I’m not thinking that,” Brand said of retirement. “I’m not the type to retire unless I have to. I’m not a quitter.”