"The end wasn't supposed to look anything like this."
That was the opening sentence from Elton Brand's essay on The Cauldron announcing his return to the Philadelphia 76ers. Those nine words also serve as a fairly accurate description of what will likely serve as Brand's final run in the NBA.
Few expected the 17-year veteran to play this season, yet just a few weeks after former general manager Sam Hinkie reached out to Brand, there was the former No. 1 pick penning a nearly 1,800-word essay explaining his reasons for joining a 3-33 basketball team.
Brand made it clear from the jump that he didn't sign with the Sixers to serve as a babysitter to Jahlil Okafor. That said, the team probably wouldn't have brought in the then 36-year-old if Okafor hadn't gone full Micky Ward on a Boston street last November.
The former two-time All-Star spent most of the first two months of his second stint with the Sixers in a suit. When he did dress, he collected DNP-CDs like Joel Embiid collects empty pitchers of Shirley Temples. It was obvious to even the most casual observer that Brand's off-court role would be far more valuable than anything he could contribute while in uniform. But every now and then, we learned that the Old School Chevy still had a little bit of gas left in the tank.
In the first quarter of the 76ers' 125-111 loss to the Detroit Pistons on March 13, Brand was the best player on the court for either team, notching eight points and rolling back the odometer a few thousand miles. And after injuries decimated the Sixers' front line late in the season, Brand summoned the will/energy/old man strength to put up 13 and 11 (in 24:25) against the Charlotte Hornets on April 1.
Given the expectations, Brand's averages of 4.1 points and 3.7 rebounds per game (in just 13.2 MPG) are commendable. However, the Sixers are at the point now where the flexibility afforded by Brand's roster spot is more valuable than Brand himself. And given the fact that Embiid, Okafor, Nerlens Noel and Richaun Holmes - and perhaps Carl Landry as well - all figure to be on the team next year, there are only so many open frontcourt positions up for grabs.
Moving on from the Old School Chevy figures to be a fairly straightforward decision for Colangelo and Co., but hopefully, the Sixers can find some sort of role for Brand within the organization this offseason.