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Elton Brand joins Woj Pod; discusses an “arms race” and a possible free agency “shake up” around the NBA

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Chicago Bulls v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Sixers’ GM Elton Brand joined ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on his podcast. It was a fun listen as Brand discussed his time with Duke, the Bulls, the Clippers under disgraced owner Donald Sterling, and of course his “rookie” season as GM of Philadelphia. Brand has come out of the gates with his guns blazing, making not one but two blockbuster trades since November, as he acquired Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris while expediting the team’s timeline for a title run.

Here were some of the more interesting quotes from the podcast courtesy of Art19.com.

Brand on the Tobias Harris trade:

...[Tobias is] a high character person, high character locker room person …. And his skill set is off the chart so once we have Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, Ben Simmons, superstars, [the question becomes] ‘who do you add to that locker room that you’ll have cohesion?’

And that was one of the things that I said [when interviewing for the GM role last summer] ‘I can bridge the gap from ownership to the players,’ I can identify those type of players that we can add to the locker room to help us win and help us coexist ‘cause if he was a difficult player this thing would have imploded, as you see with other teams possibly going on.”

It seems like Brand may be referring to much of the tumult that has characterized the Lakers’ season, and more recently the Boston Celtics. The seismic shift that occurred when Anthony Davis let it be known he would like a trade led to many of the Lakers’ players hearing their name in trade rumors. The team has appeared to struggle with cohesion ever since.

Another team who is battling a locker room crisis are the Sixers’ rival Celtics. It seems almost every other day that Kyrie Irving is unhappy with his younger team mates and struggling to find his voice as a leader.

It seems apparent from Brand’s quotes that Brand is cognizant of the delicate balance that exists within a locker room and striking that balance was top of mind for him in trade talks, not simply talent acquisition.

Brand on how he manages in a modern league where players have so much power and change feels inevitable all the time:

“It changes. It’s like the stock market you watch it every day you see those fluctuations you’ll be sick. You have to wait, wait it out and just present yourself the best way and hopefully it works out for both sides…. cause how a player feels today they may not feel after a great playoff run and an extra year of the max (laughs) added on.”

This one is perhaps the most interesting. It seems to indicate how Brand not only keeps it Zen on a daily basis in the face of so much potential change; it also indicates his potential willingness to offer a max deal, something he may need to do for both Butler and Harris to avoid losing either one this July.

Doing so would eventually make the team expensive from a luxury tax stand point when Ben Simmons is eligible for his extension the following year, although it is a cost the team’s ownership has indicated it would be willing to pay for on several occasions.

Brand on the upcoming summer shake up:

“...it’s gonna be a lot of shake up: superstars leaving, you know changes throughout organizations, because everyone is primed.

When we got Tobias, another executive from an Eastern Conference team- not winning team- said ‘man you started an arms race. He said ‘I’m just trying to load up for next summer but you set it off....’

It’s gonna be a lot of shake up, I don’t wanna mention where and why and how but you know there is gonna be a lot of shake up and its an important playoff series.”

This one is relatively juicy also. My mind was racing wondering about who he could have meant. I’m speculating entirely but the first person I thought of was Scott Perry GM of the New York Knicks, as someone who would fit the description of an “executive of a losing Eastern Conference team who is loading up for the summer’s shake up.”

It almost feels as if Brand knows something he is not explicitly indicating. It doesn’t really feel to me like he means he will lose his own players. So if I had to guess I’d say he’s alluding to some top names not on the Sixers changing teams.

If a player like Kawhi Leonard were to leave the Raptors, Kevin Durant were to leave Golden State, or Kyrie Irving were to leave the Celtics, it could create some potential scenarios where the Sixers become favorites to make the finals in the East next season. What happens during this year’s playoffs could determine a lot.

If Philadelphia can make a reasonably successful playoff run, and either retain their core or improve in free agency while some other top rivals lose stars, it could be the first harbinger of a potential title for Philly under Elton Brand’s leadership.