Mike Dunleavy Sr. is throwing a bunch of water on our growing Elton Brand bonfire. After Brand played 5 on 5 for the first time on Tuesday, he said that he thought he would play on the Clippers' upcoming road trip, March 10 through March 17. "Hopefully around that long road trip or shortly thereafter." That would seem to point to the Golden State game on March 19, two weeks hence, as his home court debut. Indeed, two weeks is a pretty lengthy time frame for the transition from full participation in practices to a return to game action, so it seems like a reasonable target.
Everything the coach is saying is fairly obvious and straightforward. It's been the case all along. The last thing anyone wants is to take a risk for so little reward. Of course, that all pre-supposes that there is a risk in bringing him back in two weeks. If 4 more weeks is less risky than 2 more weeks, than isn't shutting him down for the season less risky still? Where does it end?
I can understand the desire to lower expectations. And we've discussed before all the other reasons the Clippers might not want him on the court too much this season, the most obvious one being ping pong balls. But the crazy thing here is that he has no idea, after a single 5 on 5 half court practice, how far away Brand is from being ready. Is he two weeks away? Four weeks away? One week away? The only reason to make that statement preemptively is to lower expectations so that there is no pressure to put him on the court.
Meanwhile, those things that Brand said on Tuesday, those things that all make perfect sense about building for next season and giving the fans something worthwhile to watch... well, why would anyone want to do those things?
While we're on the subject, Rob Raichlen, the Clippers Director of Communications, cleared something up with an email yesterday. Apparently league rules preclude the assignment of Elton Brand to the Anaheim Arsenal - an idea that Elton himself had been floating:
a. Qualifications - An NBA team may assign any player on its Active List or Inactive List to play in the D-League provided that the player has zero or one Years of Service at the time of the Assignment (which effectively means that a player in his first two years in the NBA may be assigned to the D-League). A suspended player may not be assigned to the D-League during the term of his suspension.
Obviously, if MDsr is keeping Elton off an NBA court because of perceived risk, there's no way anyone would consider putting him on an NBDL court, rule or no rule. But it just so happens that it's not an option.
The bottom line is, if you bought your tickets for March 19 against the Warriors in order to see Elton Brand's home court return, you're likely to be disappointed. Maybe March 29 versus Memphis - which would have him back for the final 10 games.