Brand to have season-ending surgery

Updated: February 6, 2009, 7:17 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

PHILADELPHIA -- Elton Brand has four more years to prove to Philadelphia he was no $80 million bust.

Year 1 was a disaster.

Brand's comeback from a separated right shoulder is over and the two-time All-Star power forward will have season-ending surgery on Monday. All the Sixers got in the first year of a five-year, $80 million contract from the player they expected to help win them a round or two in the Eastern Conference playoffs was 13.8 points and 8.8 rebounds in only 29 games.

"It's the most disappointed I've ever been in my career," Brand said on Thursday. "This was supposed to be special. This was supposed to be winning, supposed to be fun. Management believed in me. I'm still not going to let them down."

The Sixers playoff push -- they were the seventh seed entering Thursday -- now goes on without Brand. They never really got accustomed to playing with a healthy Brand, anyway, making it difficult to judge how much they'll really miss him. Brand was injured in game Dec. 17 against Milwaukee, opted for rest and rehabilitation instead of surgery, and returned after missing 16 games over a six-week layoff.

But it was clear almost from the start he wasn't the same.

The Sixers tried to ease Brand back into the lineup and used him off the bench in the last six games. He never showed the form that made him one of only four active players to average a career double-double. He was hesitant to shoot and admits all that pounding and banging down low with the likes of Yao Ming made him think twice about going up strong with the ball.

Brand cracked double-digit scoring only once since his return, was held scoreless twice and played only 8 ineffective minutes in a loss against Boston on Tuesday.

"They paid me a lot and that's not what they paid me for, to be here for 8 minutes," Brand said.

The loss to Boston would turn out to be his final game. He played with a protective pad wrapped around his shoulder and did not return in the second half. The Sixers first said Wednesday an MRI revealed no new damage to his right shoulder, and he could play against Indiana on Thursday night.

The MRI results were reviewed by team doctor Jack McPhilemy and Dr. Craig Morgan, of the Morgan-Kalman Clinic in Wilmington, Del., who concluded that the initial tear of the labrum in Brand's right shoulder is responsible for a considerable decrease in the range of motion and instability.

The surgery will take place at the Wilmington Surgery Center.

"I felt the pain, I felt not being able to rebound, not being able to straighten it on a shot," Brand said.

Brand's numbers were down from his career averages even before he was injured. The Sixers shifted toward an up-tempo style that let them finish the second half of last season with a flourish and push them into the playoffs for the first time in three years. But Philadelphia tried to tailor its style around Brand and the halfcourt game instead of working him into their offense as a trailer on the fastbreak -- a mistake coach Tony DiLeo wanted to fix in the second half.

"We haven't been with him, so we're pretty much back to the way we were last year," said guard Andre Miller

The Sixers were 23-24 heading into Thursday's game and had lost two straight in agonizing fashion. They hope rookie Marreese Speights and veteran Reggie Evans can fill some of those minutes at the four spot. Thaddeus Young has blossomed starting at power forward in Brand's absence.

Philadelphia team president Ed Stefanski believes the Sixers can make the playoffs with a combination of those three and doesn't expect to pursue a trade.

"I think we're a playoff team even without Elton," Stefanski said. "I can't sit up and here and cry and say we've lost a player of Elton's magnitude."

Brand, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 draft out of Duke, missed two games in early December with a hamstring injury and the Sixers went 9-7 after he hurt his shoulder. He also missed all but eight games of last season with a torn Achillies' tendon and looked slower around the basket than he did in his prime with the Clippers.

Brand was told by doctors that he didn't rush his recovery. Either Brand had surgery in December or he hoped it would improve over time and he could gut out the final four-plus months of the season. When he still felt the tingling, the soreness and the pain, doctors told Brand it was time to shut it down for the year.

"From the beginning they said that was the test period and I failed miserably," Brand said.

ESPN.com NBA senior writer Marc Stein and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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