In this sport, it’s surprisingly easy to go from a superstar one day to be forgotten the next. With career averages of 20 ppg and 10.1 rebounds, Elton Brand is manchild in the paint. But being injured for the majority of the past two seasons, his stock has dropped a little bit in the sports world. So far in the 2009-10 season, Brand has struggled heavily coming out of the gates but has started to turn his play around the last few games. The Sixers hope he can build on his recent success and return to his All-Star form.
Just days before the start off the season, Dime traveled to Philly and caught up with Elton to talk about his new shoe, the Sixers and even rock and roll music.
Dime: Last year, the EB1 Converse shoe was very successful as far as sales were concerned. What do you attribute that success to?
EB: I attribute that to just Converse. People just want to be part of the brand. And also the price point, it’s an affordable shoe that’s very dynamic and it’s structured for quickness, for speed, for strength. And it looks great, you back to school, I’m sure the kids feel like it’s something they look cool in.
Dime: How does it make you feel to know that this shoe is affordable for kids?
EB: Yeah, I’m really proud of that. I think they get a quality shoe for a great price. Growing up, I came from a single-parent home. My mom couldn’t really afford the $200 or even the $130 shoes.
Dime: What did you try to do different when designing the EB2?
EB: This year, we added a little more individual stuff. Like my son’s name is Peace, so we’re going to have the peace sign. The strap doesn’t go all the way across, it’s a double sided strap coming across this time. We added the Chevron Star logo because it’s important like the old days. You know our new Sixers jerseys have kind of that retro, kind of throwback look and now the sneaker with the Chevron back, so it’s been a lot of big changes.
Dime: What did you do all offseason?
EB: This offseason, I’ve been back and forth between California and here. In Cali, we’ve had some amazing runs. Ron Artest, Danny Granger, Emeka Okafor, Paul Pierce, Corey Maggette, Shaun Livingston. We’d have 16 pros some days at this gym. We’d play at Hax or UCLA. The last week I was there, they all went to the Lakers’ facility.
Dime: You’ve battled injuries for the past two seasons, how is your body feeling now?
EB: I feel great. You know I’m healthy, took time off, healed the shoulder, the leg strength improved from the Achilles. My yoga flexibility has improved so I’m looking forward to a healthy season. I think I’m ready. I’ve been dominating in the pickup games against some high level action so I think I’m ready.
Dime: How tough was being out of action for the last couple of years?
EB: It was definitely frustrating. With the Clippers, it was frustrating. But to come to a new team and see them go to the playoffs and you not being able to help and going to battle with your boys and teammates, that hurt a lot. Especially since we didn’t win, didn’t go past the first round when we had a good chance to.
Dime: How do you guys replace a guy like Andre Miller?
EB: It’s funny, I played with Andre Miller with the Clippers. And the last year, he did a great job for the team. He’s won ball games for us by himself. But with Lou Williams and coach system is going to bring. You know Andre’s style of play is not as suited for the new system. But I think Lou Williams’ is. Its spreading the court. He needs to get in a position to cut. Everybody knows ‘Dre was a post guard and can command the ball. So it’s going to be a lot of cutting, spacing and shooting, which I think Lou will be fine. Of course, Andre Miller did a great job for us last year, but I think Lou will step up in that role.
Dime: What are your impressions of the Sixers’ draft pick, Jrue Holiday?
EB: I played with him. Its striking how good he is already. I’m like man 19 years old, I don’t know if I was that good at 19. He’s got all the skills, he shoots the ball, he loves to play defense, he’s tough, gritty, 6-3, 6-4. He’s going to be a heck of a player. He’s already a heck of a player now but he has to grow as a rookie especially in that point guard spot but he can play.
Dime: Who on the Sixers besides you needs to step up in order for you guys to get out of the first round of the playoffs?
EB: I see Thaddeus Young improved this summer. He played great last year, 15 and 5 whatever his stats were. I think Lou’s been playing great in practice and pickup ball and he’s the one who’s going to step up and he’s ready for it.
Dime: Because you’ve been out for so long, a lot of people have counted you out. Is this year personal for you to come out and dominate?
EB: It’s definitely personal. But not to the naysayers. It’s just to the teammates and the fans, that’s who gets me excited. I see other players with injuries and they’re coming back saying they’re going to prove everyone wrong and I don’t care about all that. My fans, my teammates, the couches. That’s who it’s for, but it’s definitely personal, I can’t wait.
Dime: Coming out of Duke in ‘99, a lot of people didn’t think you were worthy of the first overall pick in the Draft. Have you played with a chip on your shoulder throughout your career?
EB: Yeah absolutely. We had a great class. You got Lamar Odom, Steve Francis, Shawn Marion. To be the number one pick out of a group that have guys still playing at a high level, it feels great. But yeah, you have to play with a chip on your shoulder especially at this level. You’ll get swallowed up and passed on because the young players are growing and they’re really good.
Dime: In the 1999 NCAA Tournament, you lost to UConn in the championship game. Does Rip Hamilton or any of the UConn guys still tease you about it?
EB: Oh yeah absolutely. I went to Khalid El Amin’s foundation thing two summers ago, and even though we lost in the championship, were still friends but it’s still a rivalry. Richard Hamilton is a friend and Calhoun recruited me. Yeah that stings. You have those moments where you remember losing games and that still haunts you for sure.
Dime: I hear Duke guys are very close. Do you stay in contact with a lot of your college teammates?
EB: Yeah somewhat. Corey Maggette we’re playing every day in the summer time. Trajan Langdon, he’s in Russia. We went to Moscow a few years ago so I spent some time with him. I talk to Coach K maybe once a month, you know checking in. He’ll call me or he’ll still send hand written letters – he’s old school like that, so I really appreciate that. Quin Snyder, Rashawn McLeod, Chris Carrawell so I still talk to the guys a lot. Cherokee Parks I see him, he’s in Orange County so we did lunch and talk.
Dime: You mentioned now you are now a dad. How has fatherhood changed you?
EB: You know fatherhood, you kind of see what’s really important in life. You have a baby’s life in your hands, your responsible for another human’s life. And it’s amazing watching him grow every day. Just the little intricate things you have to know like putting your fingers together and clapping and touching your nose and stuff like that. He’s 11 months on the walking stages he’s on a walker. We take him walking. He’s dancing though. He’s got dance moves. He dances better than me.
Dime: Outside of basketball, we know you produced the 2006 movie, Rescue Dawn. What was that experience like?
EB: Rescue Dawn, that was a great experience. Christian Bale, you know Batman was the star of the movie. It’s a business I’m still in during the offseason. After training, I might go to the office. But I love the film industry.
Dime: Are there any other business ventures you want to explore?
EB: You know I’m still trying to find that niche. I was reading stuff about Steve Nash and guys are saying you need to speak to the connectors and people with power right now because when you’re out the league it’s like, ‘oh great can you give me that new guy who plays for the team,’ that’s just the way it is, so you start your connections and pass out your business cards now. But no, I’m not sure exactly yet. It’s like let me test out a few things and see what you like. I know golf is not going to be one of them, I’m not going to be golfing all day like some of my old heads Oakley and Jordan and those guys, they love that stuff.
Dime: We know you’re a big movie buff, what are some of your favorite all-time flicks?
EB: I really like Gladiator, Memento, Citizen Cane – that was a good one. Then interesting ones like A Clockwork Orange was a good one. The Long Kiss Tonight, that was one of my favorite movies. Then New Jack City. A lot guys like Scarface, that’s just OK. I need to catch up on my TV but I like Family Guy, 24. I used to watch that a lot but I fell off. Growing up I liked the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. When I was little, I used to watch an HBO show called Dream On. The Cosby Show. But I didn’t really like dramas on TV.
Dime: I read somewhere that you are a fan of rock and roll music. Who are some of your favorite rock artists?
EB: Rock and roll wise, I got Korn, Prodigy, a little AC/DC. I like that Blue Monday song. I like classic American rock like Springsteen.
Dime: Growing up in Peekskill, NY, were you a Knicks fan?
EB: I was kind of torn like my family they all watched the Knicks because they were always on TV. But I kind of liked Jordan and the Bulls. I can’t help it I’ll be honest.
Dime: What do you like to do when you go back home to Peekskill?
EB: Peekskill is a small town, but I love going back. We go back at least every summer and do the Elton Brand Day thing. I just really like seeing old friends and family, it really brings back your love for the game because that’s where it started. You see people that have been in the Peekskill basketball program for 30, 40 years and they’re still around helping the kids, working on their games. When you see that it brings back the passion for the game.
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