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Elton Brand says beer-drinking NYC street ballers shaped his leadership skills

The “Old School Chevy” is sticking around to mentor the young guys for one more season

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Charlotte Hornets Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

By Alex Daugherty (@alextdaugherty):

During Thursday’s snooze-fest of a preseason game against the Wizards, save for Joel Embiid’s first half double-double, only one healthy Sixer didn’t see game action.

That would be 37-year-old forward Elton Brand, elder statesman on one of the youngest teams in the league.

Brand was surprisingly re-signed just weeks before training camp started, and it’s clear his role is going to be primarily off the court.

“It’s mental, more of a mental role,” Brand said.

But the former first overall pick out of Duke in 1999 is willing to stick around and mentor the litany of young Sixers forwards as he begins his 18th season in the league.

One of those bigs is power forward Richaun Holmes, who credited Brand’s presence on and off the court as a major factor in his rookie season last year.

“Last year — my rookie year — it was big for me to listen to him,” Holmes said. “You hit that rookie wall. Just different things, to how do you manage your time? How do you take care of your body?”

Brand cited an interesting inspiration for his work habits — the streetball legends of New York where he grew up. Many of the best regularly wowed crowds on playgrounds around the city with fancy moves and deep threes well into their late 30s even if they didn’t make it to the NBA.

“There’s a lot of old guys where I come from,” Brand said. “I come from Riverside but I also played streetball and guys like ‘Half Man Half Amazing,’ — not Vince Carter, the real one [Anthony Heyward] — they would drink beer at halftime but they showed me so much love and how to play hard and not take things for granted.”

The streetball mentality was evident on Thursday with the 7-foot-2-inch Embiid going one-on-one with Wizards point guard John Wall at the top of the key. “The Process” held his own and eventually won a physical tussle with the Wizards star.

“As a big man, I think I can move and I can stay with anybody in the league so that’s what I did,” Embiid said. “That’s my job. Play defense. Coach [Brett Brown] wants me to be the centerpiece on defense and lead by example.”

Holmes also looked better on the defensive end Thursday than he did for most of last season, and he finished with 10 rebounds in 20 minutes of action, some of which were hotly contested.

“It’s a huge impact,” Holmes said of having Brand practice with and mentor the team. “Just a guy who’s been in the league so long and played at this level for so long…listening to the things he has to say and just taking care of your body. Hearing it from a guy who’s been there and successful in the league, I mean it carries a lot of weight.”

It’s unclear if Brand will have any role on this year’s team beyond training camp since he hasn’t played at all in the preseason. But “him being there, it helps me off the court probably more than on the court,” Holmes said.

“This is a guy who truly, truly loves basketball, so it wasn’t a shock for me,” Holmes said of Brand re-signing with the Sixers. “I didn’t know what the decision was going to be, but for him to come back wasn’t a shock at all because he truly loves being around the game.”