Q+A: Elton Brand
The new Mavs forward talks about Dallas and reflects on the League.
by Tracy Weissenberg / @basketballista
Dallas once again refueled in the offseason, adding solid pieces and established veterans after losing the valuable backcourt contributions of Jason Kidd and Jason Terry. The Mavs also sured up the frontcourt, acquiring Chris Kaman and claiming Elton Brand off amnesty waivers. The team’s depth took a hit when the Mavericks announced Dirk Nowitzki would be sidelined six weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery.
While it will be more difficult for the new and old pieces to develop the necessary chemistry without the team’s offensive focal point, Dallas has the right guy for the job in Elton Brand. Entering his 14th season, the two-time All-Star talks to SLAMonline about his role with the Mavericks and his reflections on the League as a whole.
SLAM: Coming to Dallas, what was your first impression of how you would fit in with this team?
Elton Brand: Coming to Dallas, first impression is spell Dirk Nowitzki, one of the greatest power forwards, and play some center behind Chris Kaman maybe. I was just looking for a good team, a good team that can compete with any team.
SLAM: After getting amnestied by Philly—even though you only had one year left—you were able to come to Dallas, which is a great organization with a proven track record. Was it a relief that you were playing here?
EB: Yeah, it was a big relief. There were some teams that were certainly lottery bound that were under the cap, ’cause only under-the-cap teams could bid on an amnestied player. A lot of people don’t know that—they’re like, “Oh you could go to the Lakers, oh you could go to the Brooklyn Nets.” No, you have to be under the cap. When Dallas came into fruition, I was excited about that.
SLAM: Well, you could have became a free agent if you made it through the waiver process, but Dallas bid on your contract, right?
EB: Exactly, if I made it through the waivers, the amnesty waivers, then you could pick any team and be a free agent. But, we had a few bids [laughs].
SLAM: At this point in your career, you assume a leadership role and show the younger guys how it’s done. Can you talk about the importance of veterans in building a culture?
EB: It’s very important for veterans, especially, you know, locker room culture. Off the court, guys have to eat right, guys got to get their rest. Coming from college, you’re up all night, eating pizza and burgers. You don’t really know and I had to learn that myself. On the court, little nuances to defensive sets, and where to be, placement, things like that, little tricks of the trade. You definitely have to teach the young guys and I’ve found myself in that role.
SLAM: Which veterans helped you the most when you came into the League?
EB: I had great veterans like Toni Kukoc, Randy Brown, Dickey Simpkins, when I first started with the Bulls. Got to the Clippers—Sam Cassell came on, Cuttino Mobley, they’re great veterans.
SLAM: Have you noticed a lot of changes in the NBA from rivalries to the current AAU culture? Guys are socializing, and there doesn’t seem to be the same animosity between opponents.
EB: Yeah, that’s a good point. Guys are friends, and they go to dinner before the games and they hang out. But they really compete hard on the court, I’ll still give them that. They don’t just hang out and buddy-buddy, they really play hard on the court. But it is more of an AAU culture, guys have known each other since 10, 11 years old in these different circuits, so they are friendships. But I remember back when I was watching basketball in the late ’80s, early ‘90s, it was hard fouls and you were enemies while you were on that court, for sure.
SLAM: Even since you started, 13, 14 years ago, have you noticed a big difference?
EB: Oh yeah, oh yeah. Now it’s more about movement, spacing. Back then it was more plodding, bigger guys. It’s changed, but I like the change. I like the feel of it and hopefully I could stick around a few more years.
SLAM: You like the change?
EB: I like it, I like it. I like the change because I like the freedom of movement.
SLAM: So you’re talking about the changes in the game, not changes in personalities.
EB: Yeah, change in the game. Not in personalities, no. I’d rather talk to [opponents] after the game, definitely. But I like the change in the game because with PJ Brown and Anthony Mason and Charles Oakley and Alonzo Mourning and Barkley, those guys would just beat you up all game [laughs]. Now, at least you could kind of get a freedom of movement and move around a little bit.
SLAM: It kind of shows you how good players were in the past, compared to superstar players of this era. Guys just don’t go at them as hard defensively.
EB: No, no, you can’t. It’s Flagrant-2s, you’d be kicked out the game. Back in the day, you could fight and still play in the game. You could throw a punch and still play in the game, you wouldn’t even get fined. So it changes a lot over the years, but I like the changes.
SLAM: What do you think about the moves that happened around the League—Howard and Nash to the Lakers, both New York franchises?
EB: It looks good on paper, but the guys still have to go out there and compete and still have to win games. It seems like they put some great uber-teams together, but that’s happened over the years a few different times and it didn’t really quite pan out, so we’ll see.
SLAM: Is it weird to see players in new jerseys?
EB: Oh yeah, absolutely. It’s weird to see myself in a different jersey too. But it’s definitely weird to see Steve Nash in a Lakers jersey, and it’s gonna be weird to see Dwight Howard in a Lakers jersey for sure.
SLAM: Your role is definitely going to accelerate very quickly with Dirk’s surgery news. Have you talked to the coaches about that or are you just ready to step up if you start or play more minutes?
EB: Coach let me know a while ago that Dirk might be out and you’re gonna be one of the go-to guys. That’s what I’m here for. I love to compete and I’m looking forward to the opportunity.