After years of futility, Philly is making all of the right choices and putting the proper people in place for a massive come up.
The Twitter burner account scandal that led to Philadelphia 76ers general manager Bryan Colangelo’s resignation — a scandal draped in the attempted character assassination of African-American employees and franchise players — manifested itself in Elton Brand getting a rare opportunity, as a Black man, to lead one of the NBA’s 30 franchises.
— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) September 19, 2018
Before the Sixers preseason opener, Brand acknowledged that he had some special pieces in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, but he also knew those two young All-Stars alone wouldn’t be enough to become the Beast of the Eastern Conference.
After plenty of optimism about Philadelphia’s chances to reach the Eastern Conference Finals last year, coach Brett Brown’s team fell short, facing the reality that they are still not constructed to championship standards.
“Honestly, I say we have a lot of work to do,” Brand said. “We’re not where I want to be right now. I’m not sure what the players feel about that. I know coach wants to see more growth and improvement. We have a lot to work on.”
Brand didn’t rest on his laurels or decide to ride this year out with the parts he had while waiting until free agency to add another star. Less than a month into his first season as Philly’s GM, he flipped a blockbuster trade for disgruntled Minnesota Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler, which immediately elevated the organization’s talent pool.
Jimmy Butler and the Sixers fully expect to reach a deal on a long-term contract this summer, league sources tell ESPN. Sixers made deal with plans to add Butler to a Big Three with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 10, 2018
Brand flexed his business savvy and his willingness to be aggressive in his pursuit of building a championship squad, and it appears he’s not finished. With the recent developments in Houston that has Carmelo Anthony being released, reports have surfaced that Brand is contemplating signing Anthony to provide Philly with another much-needed shooter after losing Robert Covington, who hit an NBA-high 189 catch-n-shoot threes last year, in the Butler trade.
I am hearing the @Sixers are kicking the tires on the idea of claiming @carmeloanthony off waivers if the @HoustonRockets let him go. Definite need for Philly, with @dariosaric gone and @mikemuscala the only other option at the 4 right now.
— Chris Sheridan (@sheridanhoops) November 12, 2018
Choosing Brand was a shrewd move for a franchise that needs to capture the moment that the city is in. The former 1999 Naismith Award winner as college basketball’s best player and 17-year NBA veteran is putting his imprints on the franchise and bringing cultural diversity to the forefront.
Philadelphia has become the center of sports Blackness, from the triumphant struggle of rapper Meek Mill to avoid unjust incarceration to the outspoken, politically conscious players on the Eagles Super Bowl-winning team, to the burgeoning wave of interest created by Simmons and Embiid.
An infusion of young, freakishly-talented blood has made Philly an elite franchise again and the poster child for why tanking wins, having accumulated a roster of captivating all-world talent for the first time since the Allen Iverson Era. Enter Brand, who has been entrusted with guiding this new Philly feel in the right direction.
Brand, who already proved his savvy as VP of Basketball Operations and GM of Philly’s G-League affiliate, has shown that he has the poise and patience to be a master craftsman, capable of acquiring star talent with shrewd moves.
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) November 11, 2018
ESPN detailed how Brand didn’t jump at the opportunity to get Butler but was intently monitoring the situation and waiting for the hefty price tag to drop, like a broker navigating the stock markets on Wall Street, waiting for the perfect time to buy.
“Through it all, the 76ers lurked. When Philadelphia principal owner Josh Harris talked with (Minnesota Timberwolves majority owner) Glen Taylor at the NBA’s board of governors meeting in September, Taylor made it clear that he hoped the 76ers would become part of the (Butler) trade process. Harris was eager to engage, but GM Elton Brand — still new to the job — intentionally resisted for weeks as the Timberwolves whiffed on unrealistic asks for Butler, including finding a third team for Gorgui Dieng and the three years, $48 million left on his contract.
The Sixers initial offer was restrained, letting the Timberwolves choose between Dario Saric or Robert Covington, sources said. Within the past 10 to 14 days, the deal finally included both players — but no first-round pick. Philadelphia’s salary structure made the Sixers reluctant to pay Dario Saric $16 to $20 million annually on his rookie extension next year, allowing them to trade Robert Covington’s four years, $46 million to clear the way to make Butler the third major financial investment with Joel Embiid and the max contract that will eventually come for Ben Simmons.”
Brand maneuvered the entire process like pieces on a chessboard, sacrificing nothing for the future and setting up a situation where they can sign Butler to a long-term deal this summer and really solidify Philadelphia’s title contention in the East with three All-NBA players.
First move under Elton Brand gets a grade of A+ if Jimmy Butler signs long-term deal 🙌🏾
— Marquis Pollard (@QuisPollard20) November 10, 2018
Brand is an extension of the lineage of former Duke University basketball players that have ascended to head coaching, front office, and other prestigious positions, continuing a tradition of post-career excellence in business and executive leadership.
Former Blue Devils player Danny Ferry was a VP of Basketball Operations and former GM of the Cleveland Cavs and Atlanta Hawks before a racial scandal stopped his momentum.
Quin Snyder is the head coach of the Utah Jazz and former Brooklyn Nets President and GM Billy King also attended Duke.
Former Duke legend and NBA Hall of Famer Grant Hill has been hounded for various NBA front office jobs over the past decade, but he’s been comfortable working as a broadcaster, philanthropist and being part of the Atlanta Hawks ownership group.
For the most part, the players and people who are tired of seeing the same old white faces get general manager opportunities, in a league that’s composed of 80 percent people of color, are rooting for Brand to succeed and don’t believe there’s any reason to think that he can’t get the job done.
Every year the Lapchick Report on the NBA’s racial and ethnic diversity efforts comes out and the NBA gets props, but when you take a closer look at the types of jobs African-Americans are getting, you will see a lingering disparity in opportunity at the highest positions of leadership within the league and on the team level.
Brand has a rare opportunity to build a culture. His first major move as GM has proved that he has all of the skills needed to navigate the trade market and make deals that are favorable for his team.
The Black GM is still somewhat of a novelty in the NBA.
Wayne Embry was the first black general manager in the NBA, hired by the Bucks in 1972. He served as an NBA general manager in four different decades — from the 1970’s to the 2000’s — and won a pair of Executive of the Year Awards ( in ’92 and ’98, both with the Cavaliers).
There’s no better candidate than Brand to become the second African-American general manager to win an NBA Championship. Joe Dumars was the first in 2004 with Detroit Pistons.
Black History Month Fact of the Day:
Dumars became the first black GM in the NBA to win a… http://t.co/q0vASMZ0
— Puma Athletics (@PumaAthletics1) February 14, 2012
Brand’s first power move as GM has proved he has the stomach to handle such a pressure-filled job. Colangelo ended his unceremonious tenure as GM by trading a first-round pick to get Markelle Fultz, who is still a raw work in progress.
Brand’s acquisition of Butler should yield the complete opposite results. After years of futility, Philly is making all of the right choices and putting the proper people in place for a massive come up.