The Philadelphia 76ers are 15-6, giving them the fourth-best record in the NBA’s Eastern Conference entering Wednesday night’s games. They have a 4 1/2 game lead in the Atlantic Division, 13 of those victories have come by double digits, and they’ve lost just twice at home, both in overtime. To boot, they’ve accomplished all of that early on in the lockout shortened season despite suffering some injuries to their big men.
That doesn’t mean the Sixers are getting a lot — or any — credit from the national pundits at this point. Analysts point to an easy schedule and say that Philly hasn’t really proven anything yet. They get their chance tonight and Friday. After beating Orlando on Monday, they host Chicago tonight and Miami to open the weekend.
Elton Brand joined 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia with Mike Missanelli to discuss guarding Dwight Howard in Philly’s victory over Orland on Monday night, the health of his back after that physical matchup, the lack of respect the 76ers are receiving nationally, if beating Chicago or Miami is a must for his team, stopping Derrick Rose and if he’s noticed the group of rowdy fans that have been heckling opposing players at the team’s home games.
On having to guard Dwight Howard in Monday’s victory over Orlando:
“We’re down two centers. … So the game plan was for me to try to get some leverage, push him around and use a team effort to keep him away from the easy buckets. He’s so athletic and talented, he gets dunks and putbacks, he’s hard to stop. We just tried to keep him away from the rim and that’s what we did.”
How’s your back after that? Are you going to be able to play tonight?:
“I’m ready, man. I’m ready. This has been a compact season. … My minutes haven’t been 35, 38 minutes a game. We’ve been blowing out people at home, so I’m pretty well rested. I’m a little sore from [Monday] night’s matchup, but no, I feel great. It’s nothing we can’t deal with.”
What are your thoughts on this team not getting a lot of credit nationally? Recently some analysts didn’t even have you in the top five in the East:
“I didn’t notice it, but of course I’ve heard about it many times from numerous people. That’s more motivation for us, because we know who we are. We’ve had whatever schedule we had, but we took care of business. When we weren’t taking care of business, we started off 3-13 last year and nobody cared. Now, we’re in the national spotlight, that’s what comes with it. We need to come out, be prepared and win some of these games against these upper-echelon teams and that will make these naysayers change their role. We like that role.”
Do you feel like winning one of these next two home games — against Chicago and Miami — is a must?:
“Absolutely. We don’t want to put too much pressure on the team and the teammates, but as a barometer, if we’re going to be an upper echelon team. Yeah, we’re down two big guys, but there’s just no excuses. We need to find a way to win one of these games, if not both, at home. We’ve found ways to win and that’s our goal for sure.”
How do you try and stop Derrick Rose?:
“He’s only averaging 35 points the last two games. (Laughs) We need a big team effort. It’s similar with what we did with Dwight Howard, a team effort but on the opposite spectrum. We need guys out there trapping. The big guys are going to have to try to stay in front of him. … We need to keep him away from that painted area. Not only is he quick and explosive, but he also has that great touch around the rim, so that’s going to be our focus.”
A group of fans has developed behind the basket that razzes opponents. Do you guys hear that stuff?:
“Yeah, those guys are great. They bring a lot of energy. A few of them were there last year, but now this whole group, they come dressed like Ben Franklin. They just have a ball. I really appreciate those fans.”