Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Why Elton Why?

It seems like just yesterday I was watching the 1999 NCAA Championship game featuring Duke and UCONN. It's a memorable game (especially for me having grown up a Duke fan in Maryland territory) because this was the year Duke had one of the top 5 college basketball teams of all time. The Dukies went 37-1 on their way to losing the title game and the roster featured so many good players. There was William Avery at point guard, Trajan Langdon as a 3-point gunner, Chris Carrawell as the defensive stopper, Shane Battier as the charge takin', trifecta makin' power forward. Hell, they even had Corey Magette coming off the bench. But there was no denying the dominating force on that team. He went by the name of Elton Brand.

That season, Brand averaged nearly 18 points and almost 10 rebounds per game, which was saying something on a roster so loaded. Duke simply manhandled everyone that year, and right until the last moments of the national title game it appeared they would go down as one of the great teams of all time. But then the Blue Devils didn't show up in the brightest of bright lights and laid a giant egg playing against a UCONN team led by Khalid El-Amin and Rip Hamilton. One of the worst moments of my childhood is Trajan Langdon clumsily mismanaging the final minute of that game.

At that moment in time, I asked myself, "Why not Elton? Why not give the ball to Elton?" They pretty much ignored him the whole game, and Brand only got eight shots off. He made five and finished with a very respectable line of 15 points and 13 rebounds. He then went on to become the first Blue Devil to declare early for the NBA Draft, where he was drafted by the Golden State Warriors.

Obviously I've been an Elton fan during his NBA career because of his Durham ties ... that is up until yesterday. As news started filtering out that Elton was going to accept an $82 million contract with the Philadelphia 76ers, I found myself cringing and asking myself Why Elton Why? I hate everything Philadelphia related, and even though he's a Duke product, Elton now falls in that category.

76ers fans should be rightly happy about this deal considering they were already a team I was deathly afraid of and showed they were a player or two away from making a big time splash in the Eastern Conference when they took the Pistons to six games in the first round of the playoffs. Basically, Philly is a solid shooting guard who has a good 3-point shot (calling free agent, Mr. James Posey) from joining the Celtics and Pistons among the upper echelon of the East. I mean think about it, 15 years after the Sixers traded a disgruntled undersized power forward by the name of Charles Barkley to the Sun, they've now finally replaced him in the form of the undersized bullfrog, Elton.

Let's be real here: I will never put a picture up of Elton in a Sixers uniform. Am I right in saying he looks like a bullfrog?

What's funny about all this is that Elton took a page out of another, younger Duke player's book. Remember the trickeration pulled by Carlos Boozer a few years back when he opted out of a deal with the Cavs, promising to re-sign with them for a certain figure and then ended up signing a different deal with the Jazz? Well what Elton did was probably even worse. I'll let Marc Stein of ESPN explain it:

(Elton) and agent David Falk announced last week that Brand was opting out of the final year of his previous contract -- worth $16.4 million -- to give the Clippers more payroll flexibility to strengthen the team around Brand. Within 24 hours of those declarations, Clippers management responded on the first day of free agency by reaching terms with (Baron) Davis in what easily ranks as the biggest free-agent coup in team history.

One source familiar with the negotiations, furthermore, insisted Tuesday that the Clippers increased their final offer to Brand to a virtual match of Philadelphia's at an estimated $81 million over five seasons. The Clippers were also the only team in the running with the ability to offer a no-trade clause to Brand, something that only one other player in the league -- Staples Center co-tenant Kobe Bryant -- has in his contract.

In other words, Elton screwed over the Clippers. They got a premier player, and one of this blog's favorites, in Baron Davis. Then they offered him the same amount of money as the 76ers. Now instead of joining forces with the Baron, he's become a thorn in my side. I guess he really had a desire to leave the ultra-competitive west, where he, Baron, and the Clips would likely have been no better than the sixth-best team.

The real loser in all this is my man, Baron. He went from the most fun team in the league that took advantage of his fast breaking skills to the Clippers, who are now a team with too many backcourt players and not enough frontcourt girth. I guess he's at least back in his hometown of Los Angeles, but something tells me being around the old homeboys is going to hurt him more than it helps.

But let's not mince words here, anymore. I no longer am an Elton fan. I can't be considering he's now a player for a team in the city I most despise besides Baltimore. I'm still sitting here, shaking my head, asking myself what happened to the bullfrog that was Elton Brand. In the words of Steve Miller, Elton decided to take the money and run.

And now, looking squarely at the beginnings of another Eastern Conference juggernaut for the Wizards to deal with, all I can really say is Why Elton, why?

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