Comtemplations on the Eve of the Sixers Showdown

The last time I posted specifically about the Elton Brand fiasco was July 10th - two days after he announced his intention to sign with the Sixers.  I always assumed I'd re-address the subject when there was more information, and to be sure I've made comments here and there about it.  But by and large, when I look at what I wrote back in July, I just don't have that much more to say.  I still feel pretty much the same.

Which is interesting.  For one thing, I wrote that post before MDsr went on his press tour.  Before we knew about the text messages, for instance.  But everything we've subsequently learned fits pretty well with my view at the time.  For instance:

Did this really blow up over an Early Termination Option?  This is almost unfathomable (and for the record, I don't believe it).  The Clippers had already given Brand an ETO in the prior contract.  An ETO after year 4 of a 5 year contract for a 29 year old, quite frankly, is in the interest of the team.  You want to end that contract when you're 33?  Um, OK.  If the Clippers really said no when they asked for this, it's one of the all time mistakes.

That very day on the radio, we learned that Brand had indeed asked for an ETO, and that MDsr had responded the next morning saying that it was no problem.  Makes sense - as I wondered at the time, why would it be?  This was the infamous text message that remained unanswered, as Brand and Falk went into 'radio silence'.  It must be stated that all of these 'facts' are just MDsr's side of the story.  He could be lying.  I haven't seen the text messages myself - though I know people who have.  But it doesn't seem like he's lying.  For one thing, Brand has never denied MDsr's version of events.  He's just ignored it, at times referring to some grand disrespect.  But the only specific he's ever given was the ETO - and that never rang true, and indeed apparently wasn't.

There have been a few interesting pieces of information in the last few days: Brand calling MDsr to tell him about Baron, MDsr telling Brand that he had $27M to split between them.  It all dovetails nicely with the version of events we've long since accepted: Brand had every intention of signing with the Clippers until something changed around July 3.  And you know what?  It's fine.  He's allowed to change his mind.  But I do think you need to be an adult about it.

This idea that Brand has spoken with the Clippers assistant coaches and the players, but not spoken to Dunleavy - with whom he was "as good as player and coach could be" - is just ludicrous.  Because there's nothing to talk about?  Really?  First of all, what exactly does he have to talk about with Jim Eyen?  More importantly, it seems to me there is something to talk about.  "Hey coach, yeah, it's me, EB.  Um, yeah, sorry about screwing you back in July."  You could talk about that.  That might fill a phone call or two.

David Falk's explanation in the aftermath went something like this:  yes, Elton had an agreement with the Clippers, and that's the problem.  Dunleavy should have known better than to be talking directly to a player.  Only the agent can make the deal.  Interestingly, as opposed to just stepping in and finishing the negotiation, Falk essentially blackballed Dunleavy for having breached protocol - he told Brand to turn off his cell phone, and he himself stopped talking to the Clippers.  I have to say, it seems like a strange way to serve your client - to break off all communications with one of the very few entities bidding for his services. 

Technically, perhaps Falk is right.  Perhaps it was some legal faux pas for Dunleavy to talk to Brand.  Of course, it seems that Brand initiated the conversations - what was MDsr supposed to do?  Stick his fingers in his ears and run away humming loudly to himself?  But more to the point, give me a break.  Elton Brand is a grown man - if he wants to have a conversation with his coach of seven years, he can do that.  And if David Falk says, "Elton you shouldn't have done that.  Give me your phone."  Elton should say "Excuse me?  Close the deal a-hole, and stop treating me like a baby or I'll get a new agent."  Talk about being disrespected... give me your phone?  Wow.

As I said, Elton has the right to change his mind and what's done is done.  It's hard to know what exactly this does to his reputation.  He was one of the squeaky-cleanest stars in the NBA, and it's pretty difficult to reconcile that with this betrayal.  And we've got the quotes - "I'm not a quitter."  "I want to be a Clipper."  "Get me BD and $75M and I'm in."  But in the end, will anyone outside of Clips Nation care?  Does anyone outside of Cleveland think badly of Carlos Boozer?  Or even remember what happened?  Let's face it, Boozer became an All Star and went to the Conference Finals after he lied to a blind guy and bolted for Utah.  The number of people who idolize Carlos Boozer is certainly much greater today than it was when he was in Cleveland.  Because everyone loves a winner.  Brand will get more exposure, more All Star appearances and possibly more wins playing in Philadelphia.  He'll probably gain fans across the east coast, not just in Philly, who will get to see him play a lot more now.  And he didn't even lose much of LA - Laker fans are probably glad he's gone.  In fact, everywhere else in the NBA, there's no doubt a general feeling of "The Clippers must have done something to screw that up.  Brand's such a nice guy, and the Clippers are just a bunch of losers."

So let's face it, Brand really won't suffer for this.  He won't be considered quite the eagle scout he was before.  But he's still a model citizen by the standards of NBA basketball players.  And he's still a hell of a ball player.

But it doesn't change what happened.

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