Commentary

Brand on L.A. return: "No hard feelings"

Updated: January 1, 2010, 1:24 AM ET
By Dave McMenamin | ESPN Los Angeles

The lyrics to Auld Lang Syne, the unofficial New Year's anthem, ponder: "Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?"

In the case of the Los Angeles Clippers and Elton Brand, the answer is yes; it's time to forgive and forget.

On Thursday, Brand returned to Staples Center as a Philadelphia 76er for the first time since signing a backdoor deal to leave L.A. on July 10, 2008 and the forward was ready to look forward instead of dwell on the past.

"There's no hard feelings," Brand said before the Sixers 104-85 loss to the Clippers.

"The total story's not over yet and it hasn't been said yet what exactly happened and I'd like to keep it that way. I'll be the bad guy."

We may never know the full story -- we're getting used to that these days with Ron Artest in town -- but that doesn't matter anymore.

The home crowd eagerly embraced him as the enemy, showering him with boos whenever he touched the ball.

When Brand checked in with 3:18 in the first quarter he was greeted with a resounding chorus of boos, but also a smattering of cheers from fans that stood to clap. When he got a steal and fastbreak dunk a couple of possessions later, the reaction was much of the same. The boos continued whenever Brand touched the ball, but became fainter and fainter as the game wore on.

The fans just needed to get it out of their system.

Brand wasn't announced over the public address system before the game because he doesn't start for the Sixers so there wasn't a watershed moment of jeers.

There weren't any fans toting personalized posters of either the "Thank you, Elton" or "Traitor" variety, either.

Even L.A.'s superfan, "Clipper Darrell," didn't come up with anything original  much to Brand's chagrin.

"I hope Clipper Darrell has something new - something better, like a different sign or a new suit or something," Brand said before the game.

No, the best player on the best team in Clippers' franchise history came and went and didn't make much of an impact on Thursday. He finished with 17 points and six rebounds in his third time playing against the team that he put once put on his back, but the first time doing it in the city that used to have his back.

"As time goes by, things kind of fade and become kind of not as important," Brand said.

Clippers Nation will always remember the magical run in 2005-06 when Brand led L.A. to a franchise-record 47 wins in the regular season and to within one win of the Western Conference Finals in the postseason (while the Lakers meanwhile, lost in the first round that year). He finished seventh in MVP voting that year and even received a first-place ballot.

"It was a great time," Brand said, sitting in the visitor's locker room at Staples Center for the first time in his life. "This is a really great town. We were really a great part of Clippers history so I'm glad to be a part of that and I enjoyed myself dearly."

But, Clippers Nation will always remember Brand's exit just as much. Last season was supposed to be the Clippers' return to glory with Brand and Baron Davis playing Batman and Robin. Instead it was another wasted campaign for a fan base that's seen too many years gone to waste.

Things haven't gone so smoothly for Brand since rejecting a reportedly $70 million offer from Los Angeles for $82 million from Philadelphia, however.

Last season, his first with the Sixers, he played in just 29 games and averaged 13.8 points on a career-low 44.7 percent shooting. Surgery to his separated right shoulder shut down his season in early February and he could only watch when Philly gave Orlando all it could handle in the first round of the playoffs before bowing out in six games.

Brand, who wouldn't rule out one day returning to Los Angeles, says he still roots for the Clippers when he catches them on League Pass, still talks to Chris Kaman once a week and still talks to Davis just as much as he did before he signed with Philly. He even appeared a little disappointed that Mike Dunleavy was missing the game with a herniated disk because he wanted to "dap him up," but overall, Brand wasn't emotional about the return. More like matter of fact.

"I'm looking forward to getting it over it over with," he said.

He's 30 years old now, an age that qualifies him as a geriatric in his profession. He is trying to rebound from two major injures in the last two seasons  the shoulder last year and an Achilles' the year before. He is coming off the bench for sub-.500 Sixers team and averaging career lows in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and minutes.

But, he is comfortable with where he's at.

"[I have] no regrets at all because it's not over, it's not over," Brand said. "I still believe in our team, still believe in what we're trying to do and we just have to right the ship which we're trying to do now ... I still got a lot of game left."

It was New Year's Eve after all - time to turn over a brand new leaf.

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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