Brand healed from Achilles injury, makes season debut for Clips
SEATTLE -- Elton Brand is back, just it time to potentially make life tough for some Western Conference teams fighting for playoff position.
The Los Angeles Clippers star made his season debut on Wednesday night against the lowly Seattle SuperSonics. Brand had missed the entire season while recovering from a surgically repaired left Achilles' tendon.
Brand was injured during an offseason workout on Aug. 3 and the Clippers have been a non-factor this season. He checked in with 6:02 left in the first quarter to applause from injured teammates Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas sitting at the end of the bench. He missed his first shot of the season 34 seconds later.
His first basket came with 3:08 left in first quarter, hitting a right-hander from the low block. He immediately yelled "and one" wanting a foul on the play, but didn't get the call.
Brand finished with 19 points and played almost 26 minutes, as the Clippers beat Seattle 102-84.
"It felt great just competing," Brand said.
After missing the entire season recovering from surgery, the former All-Star forward rejoined the Clippers in time for their final eight games. Brand could help alter the wild Western Conference playoff race in the last six.
Los Angeles plays at Sacramento on Thursday night, but then returns home to play Houston, Denver and the Lakers. Then the Clippers end the season on the road against the Warriors, Hornets and Rockets.
The Clippers made the playoffs two seasons ago and were in the chase all the way to the final week last season. With three games left, Los Angeles and Golden State were tied for the final spot. The Warriors went 3-0 and the Clippers 1-2.
Then Brand was injured in the offseason and the Clippers have struggled. They had dropped 11 of 12 entering Wednesday night's game.
At shootaround on Wednesday morning, Brand indicated he likely wouldn't play until Thursday and stuck around the morning session for extra work. He shot for about 20 minutes an hour before tip-off and came off the floor looking ready or his first minutes of the season.
"I really hadn't planed on much, playing him in the 16-minute area," Clippers' coach Mike Dunleavy said. "Then in that first half he got competitive and said, 'I want to play some more."
Brand was first cleared to begin extensive running and jumping exercises on the court in late January.
Brand's return came on a night the Clippers were without Chris Kaman (ankle), Mobley (heel) and Thomas (Achilles'). Dunleavy said the ankle swelled significantly and it's possible Kaman will not return this season. Kaman is averaging 15.7 points and 12.7 rebounds.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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