CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — Only two years out of the NBA, Elton Brand is set to return to the league as a 39-year-old general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers.
For a franchise that underwent the painful “Process” for a few seasons and had its last GM caught up in a Twitter scandal, a youth movement in the front office could be what the Sixers need to take the next step into Eastern Conference contention.
Brand is ready to help lead the way.
“I’m going to rely on my team,” Brand said. “Not just on the court, but the off-the-court team. I can’t keep saying it enough. In my opinion, we are one of the top groups in the NBA.”
Brand was introduced Thursday at the Sixers complex as the new GM, and it was made clear the two-time All-Star will not yield the power to make the final decisions, but rather work in concert with coach Brett Brown and the rest of the front office.
“The 76ers are on the cusp of something very special and the next 12 months are really important,” Brand said. “I think that’s why I was the leading candidate, to bring stability to the organization and this group that I know really well.”
Brand had worked for the Sixers as vice president of operations and was the general manager of the Delaware Blue Coats, the 76ers’ G League affiliate.
Sixers owner Josh Harris said Brand emerged from a list of at least 10 candidates as the right choice to steady a franchise rocked by Bryan Colangelo’s sudden departure. Colangelo resigned in June as the 76ers’ president of basketball operations after what an investigation concluded was “careless and in some instances reckless” sharing of sensitive team information on Twitter.
“I’ll lead with honesty, integrity,” Brand said.
Brown had assumed interim GM duties but wanted no part of holding the job full time. But he will work as Brand’s partner in key decisions the franchise faces coming off a 52-win season.
“Coach and I are aligned,” Brand said. “Teams that have won in the NBA, the GM, the coach have to get along. He’s going to have the players. But when it comes to trades, draft process, I’m running that. That’s what I’ve been hired for. Final say? Coach is going to have a voice in it.”
Brand played in 1,058 career games over 18 seasons with the Bulls, the Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas, Atlanta and two stints with the Sixers. He posted career averages of 16 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two blocks per game.
A two-time All-Star and the 2000 co-rookie of the year, Brand was also the recipient of the 2005-06 Joe Dumars Trophy, presented each season to the player who exemplifies the ideals of sportsmanship on the court.
“I think we’re at a new point in our team’s development into hopefully an NBA championship,” Harris said. “We need to be attracting talent here. Certainly, Elton’s image and who he is as a person were real positives. But leadership and managerial skills and the things you’ve got to do in the front office that aren’t just about image, he’s got those, too. But certainly, that was a huge positive.”
Brand said it’s fair to question his inexperience as he skyrocketed through the organization from the G League to GM. But it’s a job he’s ready to handle.
“I’ll take the hits,” he said. “When there’s decisions made on the basketball side, I’m taking the hits.”
Alex Rucker was promoted to executive vice president of basketball operations. Ned Cohen will remain assistant general manager and Marc Eversley will stay as senior vice president of player personnel.
The Sixers beat Miami in the first round of the playoffs before they were eliminated in the conference semifinals by Boston. Under Brown’s watch, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons have blossomed into two of the top young players in the league.
Embiid and Markelle Fultz were among the players who attended Brand’s press conference.
The Sixers were stunned when an independent review found that Colangelo’s wife, Barbara Bottini, operated four Twitter accounts. She admitted using private information to criticize the Sixers and rival colleagues.
Brand, the fourth black GM in the NBA, is ready for the Sixers to put the offseason mess behind them and make a jump in the East.
“This is a special team, an incredible opportunity, and we will lead a disciplined and determined path to building a championship organization,” he said.