Takeaways from Elton Brand’s End-of-Season Media Availability

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By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Editor

76ers general manager Elton Brand spoke to the media on Tuesday afternoon about a multitude of different things. Throughout the conference call, he talked about a desire to keep Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, potential change in the front office and his role in the ever evolving Sixers management.

Here are three takeaways:

1. Elton Brand's role in the 76ers front office is solidified

When Brett Brown was fired on Monday, many 76ers fans hoped to see Brand gone with him. They were frustrated at his decision to build the team in a bully ball style last offseason instead of surrounding Embiid and Simmons with outside shooters. However, Brand will be staying at the helm for the 76ers, albeit with a twist.

When Brand was hired to be the team's general manager in September 2018, he had very limited managerial experience. His only experience came as the general manager of the Sixers' G-League affiliate, the Delaware Blue Coats. Partially as a result of his lack of experience, the 76ers front office utilized a "collaborative approach" when making any decisions in Brand's first full offseason at the helm.

One of the things that caused the 76ers misguided approach last offseason was the collaborative approach used by the front office. Brand, during Tuesday's conference call with reporters, said things will be different this offseason.

"To be clear and frank, we feel that the collaboration days didn’t work too well, so I will be leading the search," Brand said. "I will make the recommendation to managing partner Josh Harris and co-managing partner David Blitzer, of course, but we’re getting better."

Brand said that he is "looking forward to putting my stamp on this thing" this offseason, meaning that Brand's position as the team's general manager is solidified amongst all the turnover that has happened and is expected to happen over the next few weeks or months.

The 76ers have to overcome a lot in order to dig themselves out of the hole they dug into last offseason when they made the move to sign Al Horford to a four-year, $109 million contract. Brand will get the opportunity to put his stamp on things and do things his way this offseason, beginning with the firing of Brett Brown. 

With a full year of experience under his belt, Brand is better equipped now to make any decisions regarding the future of the team, whether it be finding who the next head coach is or any personnel moves throughout this upcoming offseason.

"I’d say it grew," he said of his power within the organization. "I was a rookie thrust into the position to lead a team with championship aspirations that the fan base sacrificed and struggled for some years. My understanding of the game grew, and how to manage and how to lead. I’ll admit I didn’t know a lot, but now, I do know a lot more. I’ve been through almost every situation there is, so I’m looking forward to leading this offseason and figuring out how to get us back on the right path."

2. More change will be coming to the front office

The firing of Brown is just the beginning of the front office changes the 76ers are going to make this offseason. The collaborative approach the 76ers took last offseason did not work out, and Brand has been given the ability to correct some of the mistakes made early in his tenure as general manager.

Executive vice president of basketball operations Alex Rucker and assistant general manager Ned Cohen, two holdouts from the Colangelo regime, have both played key roles in the front office throughout Brand's time as general manager. When asked about if Rucker would be returning, Brand refused to give a specific answer.

"I’m doing a thorough assessment of our front office,” he said. “I don’t want to pinpoint Alex as a scapegoat or anything like that. Our group has to get stronger, we know that. So I’m taking time to assess where we are and how we get better. We failed and we’re not happy about it. We’re actually pissed about it."

Brand, throughout Tuesday's press conference, dropped some clues regarding some of the changes the 76ers could make in the front office. He said the team has a wealth of analytical people, and that the organization needs to add more "basketball minds" to the front office equation. 

3. Brand wants to "better complement" Embiid and Simmons, not trade them

Rumors have been flying around often over the past couple of weeks about whether or not the 76ers should or are looking to deal one of their two superstar players, Embiid or Simmons. Brand put that to rest on Tuesday when he said he was not looking to trade Embiid or Simmons.

"I’m looking to complement them better. They’re 24 and 26 years old, respectively. You try to make that fit as long as you can. They want to be here, they want to be with our organization, and I see them here for a long, long time."

The 76ers failed to properly surround their two superstars with talent that complements them on the court. Brand, this time around, is making it an emphasis to incorporate Embiid and Simmons into the decision-making process in regards to the coach and personnel on the court.

"I’m going to talk to Jo and Ben about just the game and how they see it, and what’s going to help them and how to complement each other and what will complement them," Brand said. "I’m not going to put the pressure of ‘you wanted this new coach’ or ‘you wanted that player’ on them, but just the overall philosophy, basketball. Where they feel we were weak, where they feel we were strong and ways to get better. Just have some clear and candid conversations with them, absolutely, as I feel I should."

Philadelphia is not going to reach the pinnacle of success with Embiid and Simmons unless the surrounding pieces better fit and complement their games.

Part of better complementing Embiid and Simmons includes bringing in a coach who can get the best out of them on the court. The 76ers had accountability issues throughout this past season, and Embiid and Simmons were arguably at the center of it. Simmons needs to add a jump shot to his arsenal in order to unlock all aspects of his game and help improve the team's chances at winning a championship. Embiid needs to get into better shape on a consistent basis. The new coach being brought in will have to do a better job at keeping both of them accountable and holding their feet to the fire. 

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