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Hungry Brand wants to bring defensive toughness to Mavs

POSTED: Oct 9, 2012 12:15 PM ET

By Fran Blinebury

BY Fran Blinebury


Elton Brand (left) gives Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs a reserve scoring option they've never had before.

Yes, Elton Brand has something to prove.

Wouldn't you?

He's put in 13 seasons in the NBA, twice as an All-Star, always as solid performer.

He's been amnestied by a Philadelphia team that advanced to the 2012 East semifinals and still hit the button that swung open the trapdoor beneath his feet.

Thing is, he never quite fit in with the Sixers, virtually from the moment he signed that big free-agent contract in 2008.

Was he the go-to guy in the low post? Or was he just a facilitator who was supposed to make things easier for a flock of young guards? The more you watched him, the more you saw those gears grind.

So now he's in Dallas with not so much attitude as opportunity to show what's left in the tank.

"Absolutely," Brand said. "Being amnestied from a team, being in the playoffs ... (I) definitely want to prove a lot. But in the right way. Not individually."

The irony is that in getting cut loose by the Sixers, Brand might be like a Hollywood stuntman who falls 10 stories off a rooftop, only to land in a passing mattress truck. A lineup with Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Kaman and Shawn Marion could be the most comfortable spot he's been in years.

These Mavericks enter the season amid the loud noise coming from the top of the Western Conference pile in Oklahoma City, Los Angeles, San Antonio and even Denver with low expectations and could quietly surprise. That's in no small way thanks to the bargain-basement pickup of Brand as the mavs are paying just The Mavs will pay just $2.1 million of the $16.1 left on his contract from Philly.

Though he is no longer the elite-level player who ruptured his Achilles' tendon during the 2007-08 season, Brand is still a smart, slick veteran who knows his way around the hoop and can drain mid-range jumpers. During his four post-surgery years in Philly, he averaged 13 points while playing just over 30 minutes per game. He's still a ferocious rebounder, especially on the offensive end, where he constantly keeps possessions alive.

While Brand will have to adjust to playing regularly off the bench for the first time, that change will give Nowitzki a legitimate scoring threat as a backup for the first time in his career. At 34, that is no small thing for Nowitzki, who has regularly logged big minutes. On the occasions he and Nowitzki play together, it should give Brand an opportunity that he has rarely experienced.

Top mid-range shooters, last two seasons
Player FGM FGA FG%
Player FGM FGA FG%
Stephen Curry 248 485 51.1%
Dirk Nowitzki 630 1,264 49.8%
Al Horford 249 500 49.8%
Elton Brand 365 752 48.5%
Steve Nash 251 518 48.5%
Minimum 200 FGA from mid-range (between the paint and 3-point line)

"I think I'll enjoy especially playing with Dirk whenever I get that chance, because most of my career I've had the best big defender defending me," he said. "Whether it was their center, but if he's the best defender, he's on me. If it was a power forward, if he's their best defender, then he's on me.

"Having Dirk out there, that's not going to happen. Having Kaman out there, you can't put Dwight Howard or some elite defensive center on me. They have to guard the center, their true position. So whether we mix-and-match, hopefully I can take advantage of the matchup. It's going to be a lot of fun."

Brand also gives the Mavs a skilled defender to match up against elite Western Conference forwards like Pau Gasol, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin and Zach Randolph. Plus, he can still mix it up in the middle against centers when needed. He won't be swatting shots away like Tyson Chandler did for the Mavs in their 2011 championship season, but he blocks just under two a game for his career and led the Sixers last season with 1.6 bpg.

"They're both tough," Brand said. "I've played a lot at center during this latter part of my career, the last four years. I've guarded all those big centers, from Dwight to Chris Kaman, even to Yao Ming when he was still in the league, so I played a lot of center. The quick fours, the stretch fours, that's more of a challenge. You can do some things to make sure they're not getting open threes and keep them from getting to the rim and stuff like that.

"[I'm] definitely going to have to anchor the defense, bring toughness. I'm not proud of it but I think I led the league in flagrant fouls last year. In order to win, you have to do those kinds of things to protect that paint. I know I'm going to be looked at to do that."