One-on-One Conversation: Elton Brand on Joining the Hawks
Veteran big man Elton Brand signed with the Atlanta Hawks this off-season and is in town for pre-training camp workouts. Brand, a Duke product, was the first overall pick in 1999 by the Chicago Bulls and has played for the Los Angeles Clippers, Philadelphia 76ers, and most recently the Dallas Mavericks. Over his career, Brand has averaged 17.4 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.8 blocks per game with a career 21.0 PER and 54.9 true shooting percentage. Brand sat down with Hawks.com Thursday morning to discuss coming to Atlanta, fitting into the Hawks’ system, adapting to being a role player and much more.
Well, I guess first off what made you choose to come to Atlanta, and what did you see in this organization that made you want to be here?
You know, I saw a top-flight organization. I figured, with Smith probably moving on, I’d get a chance to not only come in and be a veteran leader but get a chance to play. I like where the team is going, so I felt like I could come help contribute.
How long have you known Danny? Obviously you have the Duke connection. What was your relationship like with him and did that help you decide on coming here?
I’ve known Danny since probably high school, going on a visit and he was at Duke and around. I know what kind of leader he is, and what he’s going to bring to an organization, so I definitely wanted to be a part of that also.
Paul Millsap and Al Horford already on the roster, is it exciting coming into a place where you have two guys like that at your position that are going to push you in practice?
I can’t wait. I’m looking forward to those battles. You know Pero Antić is a great overseas player and [Gustavo] Ayón is killing it in FIBA Americas. MVP! Double-doubles every night! So it’s gonna be a lot of fun just in practice, so I’m looking forward to those battles. I love to play and I love to play against the best.
Al’s known more as a mid-range shooter and is still developing his post-game. Have you been able to watch him at all, and is there anything you think you’ll be able to help him with in his post-game?
Yeah, he’s been working with the medicine ball, he’s been working on his post moves. You know, Coach Ham, he’s worked with Bynum before the injuries, has been bringing a lot of good stuff for post work for all of us. The coaching staff, they really know what they’re doing, and I’m just being a part of that and an extension of that.
How much have you had a chance to talk to Coach Bud and the coaching staff?
Yeah, Coach Bud’s been here every day. We’ve talked every day about where I’m going to be touching the ball, working with Timmy Duncan, managing guys. It’s exciting.
[Coach Bud] said he’s going to bring in many aspects of the Spurs’ system and their offense. What do you know about the system, and how do you feel you fit into it?
Yeah, I know the bigs are spacing the floor, touching the ball, shooting the mid-range, and facilitating also. I feel like I fit in well. I can be very effective in it. I know I’m excited to touch that ball in those spots.
Bud’s system is very heavy on pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop. You’ll have Jeff Teague and Dennis Schröder running that. Have you gotten a chance to work out with Dennis and Jeff here? And, Dennis is a proficient pick-and-roll player even as a rookie, what do you see in his game?
Yeah, I’m excited to play with those guys. Teague runs pick-and-roll a lot and Dennis runs pick-and-roll a lot. With Dennis, it’s the way he picks the ball up full-court [on defense]. We’re playing pick-up, and he’s picking up out of bounds. As a pick-and-roll threat, he’s a rookie and he’s still learning, he’s very good at it, but he’s still learning. But that defense, that is a thing to see.
Has coach talked to you at all about where he thinks your role is going to be on this team?
Not yet. Not yet. I think he’s waiting and letting guys battle it out. I’m sure he has an idea, of course Al [Horford] and some of the guys from last year, [Jeff] Teague, [Kyle] Korver, and Lou Williams off the bench, but I think the new guys, we’ll just have to battle it out and have to earn it.
Last year was your first year playing off the bench for the majority of the season. Did that take an adjustment from you as far as mentally preparing for the game and preparing to play with a different kind of group of guys?
Yeah, first time coming off the bench for the majority of the season. Mentally, you have to adjust to your role as either keeping the lead or getting the lead. You don’t want to come off the bench and you see the lead go from eight to two. So that was the goal, and that was different. Usually I was a pace-maker coming out as a starter and trying to help get the lead and stuff like that. But any way I can help the team, I embrace that.
You played 21 minutes a game and averaged seven [points] and six [rebounds]. What does it take for you to not be the focal point of the offense and how do you stay engaged in the game and make sure when you get the opportunities you are taking advantage of them?
That was one of the biggest things I had to realize coming off the bench and not being a focal point. Learning to be just a role player. Sometimes you’d see a mismatch and it’s like, “Well, I have Dirk over here…” [laughs] Am I supposed to get the ball to Dirk, or am I supposed to go? Things like that, so it’s an adjustment, but you just have to attack and, on this team, I’m going to have to attack and exploit those mismatches when they come.
As a unit without great size, what can you do to be not just average, but be a good defensive team?
Yeah, I see myself playing a lot of center* which I’ve played the last few years guarding those big guys, the [Dwight] Howard’s, the [Roy] Hibbert’s in the post and I’ve done pretty okay against them.** We’re going to have to scramble, we’re going to have to be quick, and make them pay on the other end. Get the rebounds and go. We will be undersized height-wise, but I think we’ll use our quickness, strength, and other things to make them pay on the other side.
*Hawks GM Danny Ferry stated at Summer League in Las Vegas that he views Brand more as a center than power forward at this stage of his career.
**Brand was 111th in the NBA against post-ups allowing opponents to score 0.80 PPP on 40.5% shooting.
One last thing: What can we expect from you this year on and off the court?
On the court, you can definitely expect a post presence defensively and offensively. Definitely looking forward to it, and I’ll be mixing it up and being tough in the paint for us. Like you alluded to there’s not a lot of size, but we’ve got some strength and quickness. Off the court, being a veteran leader, getting us prepared every night. We have a great group of guys that just want to win. Just knowing these guys from working out here, no one’s selfish, no one’s worried about contracts or anything, they’re just worried about getting better and winning. So, that’s the type of team I want to be a part of.
Photo by David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images