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April 01, 2020

Report: Knicks president interested in Sixers' Elton Brand for GM job

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012919-EltonBrand-USAToday Bill Streicher/USA Today

Philadelphia 76ers general manager Elton Brand.

Knicks president and former sports agent Leon Rose is reportedly interested in Sixers GM Elton Brand as a candidate for the same job with New York, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

Here's the word from Bondy:

According to a league source, Elton Brand has been targeted by Rose as a candidate for Knicks GM. Brand, 41, is currently the Sixers GM and is under contract next season, complicating any designs of bringing him to New York. The source said Rose wanted to see if Brand was dismissed after the playoffs. 

Since taking over as Philly’s in 2018, Brand tried to build a championship contender around Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. He traded for Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. Then after Butler left in free agency, Brand acquired Josh Richardson and Al Horford. The results have been mixed.  [NYDN]

The Sixers did not respond to request for comment on the story from PhillyVoice.

A team source stressed to PhillyVoice that Brand is under contract beyond this season, and said that the organization is happy with how he has led the franchise since being promoted to the role in 2018, valuing his leadership and connections around the league (both internally and externally).

There is a lot to unpack here, namely that Brand might be in demand as a potential GM candidate. Brand has acted decisively since taking over as GM late in 2018, but his moves to put the Sixers in a better position to contend right away have left the Sixers with minimal flexibility moving forward, either through cap space, movable contracts, or draft picks. And that moving and shaking has yet to bring the Sixers any further than they were before he took over, with Philadelphia sputtering through a disappointing season prior to the league suspending operations.

Brand's actual role in the last two years of business, of course, has been obfuscated by a collaborative process at the top of the organization. Following Bryan Colangelo's departure, head coach Brett Brown accepted a bigger say in personnel decisions in the summer of 2018, a time that saw the Sixers execute the trade of Mikal Bridges' draft rights for Zhaire Smith and a pick, drafting Landry Shamet later in the same round. Brand was hired prior to the 2018-19 season beginning, and managing partner Joshua Harris stated at the time that both Brand and Brown would report directly to ownership.

By Brand's own admission, the power structure changed following the end of last season, with Brand and Brown now in a traditional GM-coach power structure.

"First time GM, because I learned a lot about leadership, culture, we look at that as what do we tolerate, what do we celebrate? Once I got a year under my belt, the conversation was hey, you did a great job your first season where you took us," Brand said following the 2020 trade deadline. "Brett conversation was, look EB, this is how it is around the league, you’ve done a lot for me and the organization, we respect it, ownership, we’re all aligned with that, that that’s how it should be. So it wasn’t a big deal."

That admission put last summer (and the subsequent disappointing season) squarely on Brand's shoulders, with the Al Horford signing looming as a potential problem for the franchise moving forward.

There have certainly been wins under Brand's leadership. He has built solid relationships with the team's core players, the emergence of Matisse Thybulle rewarded Brand's aggressive move to get him on draft night, and in hindsight, last year's Sixers team was firmly in the mix to win the title if a buzzer-beater from Kawhi Leonard bounces differently. Brand's overall culpability is hard to get a grasp of in any case — the front office is still largely composed of the same Colangelo lieutenants, and ownership's impact on decisionmaking should not be overlooked.

Speaking of those solid relationships, an important point brought up by Bondy:

Rose has worked closely with Brand in Philly because, up until February, he served as Embiid’s agent. Rose is also from the Philadelphia area. 

Never dismiss the impact of connections in a league with just 30 teams.

Another factor worth monitoring — would Brand be dismissed following the playoffs, or could that happen if they're not played at all? Brand is still under contract next season for the time being, and though head coach is probably the first place the organization will turn when contemplating major changes this summer, the poor team structure and dwindling asset pool might prompt Harris and Co. to take a hard look at whether they should let the group that got them into the current mess get them out of it.

As far as I know, this is not an April Fool's Joke. And the Knicks being the Knicks, you have to consider every possibility as it is. For the time being, let's worry about basketball being played again first.


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