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November 13, 2018

Q & A: Elton Brand discusses Markelle Fultz with reporters following Jimmy Butler presser

You may have heard the Sixers introduced Jimmy Butler on Tuesday morning. It was an interesting press conference that gave Butler the chance to clear the air about his falling out in Minnesota, and what the future holds for him in Philadelphia. It was enlightening, and he sure seems ready to fit in within the Sixers and the blue-collar town he will now call home.

As a point of courtesy, the subject of Markelle Fultz was set (mostly) aside during Butler's press conference, and once the various TV personnel and large crowd left the practice facility, Sixers GM Elton Brand was kind enough to give beat reporters a few minutes of his time before he boarded a flight to Orlando to catch up with his new-look team.

After the free-throw heard round the world, there was only ever going to be one subject talked about in the private setting. Rather than give you bits and pieces, we are presenting the majority of the back and forth between reporters and Brand so that the full context can be considered.

[An important note before we begin: big thank you to Crossing Broad's Kevin Kinkead for transcribing a majority of this scrum and sharing with the fellow reporters on the beat. I filled in some blanks that he left that were not strictly related to Fultz, both to give you a fuller picture of the scrum and in case you're interested in things beyond Brand's thoughts on Fultz.]

Jon Johnson (94 WIP): I hate to ask you this on such a day; a lot was made last night about Markelle Fultz's free throw. Did you see it? What was your reaction?

Brand: I saw the free throw, for sure. I've been seeing him work this summer, and all of this season, and he has times where something like that happens. But following that, he shot it very well and it looked very fluid. He's going to have some ups and downs. He's going to have more ups than downs. You saw the talent level in flashes, how talented he is.

Kevin Kinkead (Crossing Broad): Elton, is he still working with Drew Hanlen? There was a report last night that he and Drew were no longer on speaking terms.

Brand: I'm not sure about that. We have our coaching staff here and he's working with our coaching staff. But there's a window from before 9 a.m. and after 4 p.m. that you can work with outside trainers in our facility, but I'm not sure about that.

Jack McCaffery (Delco Daily Times): Before the season Brett specifically said the goal was to go to the NBA Finals. Does this trade take it a step further, the goal is now to win the NBA Finals?

Brand: No, no, no, I'm taking my time, this a step towards getting to the Finals, in my opinion. Early on, the championship is a little premature for me. But this is definitely a step in that direction, there's still work to do. Maybe not trades or anything like that, but we have an open roster spot and we're going to definitely be evaluating our team.

Anthony Gilbert ( [paraphrased] What do you bring to the team in terms of being patient and developing the program?

Brand: There's a mix. There's a thin line you have to look at. You want to be patient and do you develop homegrown talent that we have, or do you jump ahead and kind of boost our chances? And I felt that was kind of a big boost for our chances, to get to our aspirations of being champions.

I don't know how long our window's going to be, other teams are not waiting around like, oh yeah, let the Sixers develop. They're getting better, especially in the East.

Sarah Todd (Inquirer): What you saw on the free throw last night from Markelle, that's something you've seen off and on during practice and over the summer?

Brand: Not necessarily the free throw, but just him shooting and working on his shot, different things that he was working on and growing. I've never seen him shoot a free throw like that.

Todd: Is that concerning, to see him shoot a free throw like that?

Brand: It would have been concerning if he didn't come back and shoot three more shots and they didn't look really fluid. I was actually proud that he came back and hit a shot and did what he did after that, because he deals with a lot. He's 20 years old. Again, he's very talented. It's my role, my job, to get the best out of him.

Tom Moore (Bucks County Courier Times): There was a lot of attention toward trying to getting a free agent next summer. By getting Jimmy, I would think you certainly like your chances of keeping him beyond vs. being in an open free agent market, correct?

Brand: It's tough to get these superstar players, All-Star level talent. I spoke to a GM, he was with multiple teams, he was waiting for a certain player for three years — not our team — he didn't even get a sit down with him. It's hard to get free agents on the open market. So when you have the opportunity to add a Jimmy Butler, four-time All-Star, one of the best players in the NBA, I feel you had to pounce. I feel like I had to pounce.

Kyle Neubeck (Philly Voice): You mentioned that other teams weren't just going to sit around and wait for you to develop. Do you still feel like this is the best place for Markelle to develop, given how far he still has to come and the urgency you now have with a star in their prime (Butler) next to Joel?

Brand: [long pause] I still think it's the best place for him to develop because we love him and we care. He's with us. He's a part of us. If he goes somewhere else, I don't know what that looks like. But for him to develop, it may be the best place for him still.

Todd: I'm sure conversations have been had with Brett throughout this process. On the basketball side of things, you lost two starters and now Jimmy is here. What does that starting rotation look like now?

Brand: So I spoke to coach about that and he's getting with his staff. He's going to go over that before the game tomorrow and of course tonight. But it's going to have ripple effects throughout the entire roster when you add a four-time All-Star to your squad.

Dave Uram (94 WIP): What's been your assessment of Markelle a month into the season and was this trade a reflection on any changed views about Markelle's future?

Brand: No, not at all. It wasn't a changed view of Markelle's future. It was more of a changed view of being able to get a superstar, a star right now and seeing where other teams were. There are some really talented teams. Toronto is doing really well. Milwaukee is doing well. I think Boston figures it out. Indiana is right on the cusp. So it was just a chance to have our team take another leap, take another step.

Ian Begley (ESPN): You mentioned wanting to add a significant piece to the open roster spot. Given the composition of the roster, is shooting something that will be a priority?

Brand: Oh yeah. The way we like to play, shooting is at a premium. So we need shooting, we absolutely will evaluate the market and see what's out there. We're getting tons of calls, but nothing is imminent. We haven't decided, hey, this is the player for us now, but that open roster spot can pay some big dividends.

Derek Bodner (The Athletic): You say Markelle will have some ups and downs; this is a business where the downs can be very public. How do you prevent that from becoming a drag on his confidence?

Brand: Yeah that's why I was so proud of him, because I know he felt however he felt during that free throw. And for him to respond like that and come back and shoot fluid jumpers and go to the hole and do what he does, I'm proud of a 20 year old dealing with a lot.

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