A question has been lingering in the back of my mind for a couple of weeks now, and I think it's time we discussed it. Eddie Jordan has made numerous comments about how he likes Elton Brand at the five, with the second unit. His reasons, stated or otherwise, appear to be that he does not think Brand is much of a threat out on the perimeter, where he likes fours to be in his offense. Let's just accept this logic and move on. The question I have is why haven't we seen Elton Brand start at the five, with the first unit.
This is in no way a knock on Sam Dalembert, he's played some spirited basketball this season (although not in the past three games). But given Jordan's predilection for valuing offense over defense, I can't figure out why Dalembert is still getting the start night in, night out.
If you favor the contrarian point-of-view, and think starting Dalembert is actually Jordan choosing defense over offense, I don't think the numbers bear that out. EB and Sammy have split the minutes at the five right down the middle since Brand came back from his hamstring injury, and the trend is heavily favoring Brand in recent games. In the grand scheme of things, Jordan is choosing offense over defense (Brand can be a solid defender at the five, and he's definitely smarter, but I still give the nod to Sammy. His rebounding alone puts him ahead of EB).
I can only come up with a couple reasons for Jordan sticking with Sammy as his starting center. One would be that he genuinely likes Elton with the second unit as the focal point of the offense. I don't put much stock in this theory, however, because Brand is rarely the focal point of the offense no matter who he's on the floor with. A large percentage of his shots come off dribble drives and offensive rebounds, definitely not plays drawn up to get him the shot.
The other reason, and one I'm leaning heavily towards, is fear. Simply put, Elton Brand is a professional who isn't going to make too much noise if he's planted on the bench. Sam Dalembert is not. If Sammy was to be benched, it wouldn't be long before we started hearing him complaining about it, loudly. Brand has made a few comments about how he believes he should be starting, but they've always been mitigated by team-first quotes about how he enjoys playing the five with the second unit. EB is a good guy and I believe Jordan is taking advantage of that fact to keep harmony in the locker room.
I suppose it doesn't matter who starts and who comes off the bench, the real measure is minutes played, but it does rub me the wrong way that in about a week two members of the Sixers starting lineup will be out there due to nothing more than fear. Iverson and Dalembert must be in the starting lineup, otherwise things will get messy. Sounds a bit like the inmates running the asylum, no?