Branded Losers

Maybe it wasn’t Donald Sterling’s fault this time around. For once the thrifty owner of the Clippers actually opened the purse up, stole a big name free agent from a division rival, and put the money on the table to keep his own star. But Sterling had pushed fate for too many years. When he finally put his money out there, the check didn’t clear.

Handshake agreements aside, believe nobody when it comes to sports business, especially agents, owners and players. Brand opted out of his contract with a gentleman’s agreement in place to re-sign at a negotiated rate to allow LA the flexibility to sign another All-Star, then pulled a Carlos Boozer, fleeing the scene. While Boozer got publicly criticized, don’t expect the same treatment for Brand. First, all indications are his agent, the once mighty David Falk, orcestrated the whole move. Second, Sterling deserves it for all the times he has short-changed players. No owner has shorter arms and longer pockets than Sterling.

If healthy, and he appears to be based on his short stint last season, Brand is a borderline top ten player in the league. With David at the point, up and comer Al Thornton on the wing, underrated Chris Kaman sharing the post with Brand, and first round pick Eric Gordon, the Clips had a chance to compete in the heavyweight Western Conference. Maybe not for a championship, but certainly for a playoff berth, possibly more. Without Brand, forget it.

Left at the altar, LA has money to spend. Expect them to throw it in all directions to fill Brands big shoes – Emeka Okafor, Josh Smith (the restricted free agent big prize) – but none are as good as the Duke product. Last week, rumor circulated that the Clippers even proposed a trade for Zach Randolph. The same enigma the Knicks want to give away. Somehow the Knicks did not find a way to make that deal work. Let’s see Randolph or Brand – touch choice.

Signing Baron Davis will prove fruitless if LA does not snatch a big man to replace Brand. Despite one rejection, Sterling owes it to his fans to keep trying. After so many years of dragging Clipper fans through the mud, then having the Lakers rub their faces in it, he has to do everything he can to win.

As for Brand, he got his money, and will do for Philadelphia what he could have of done for LA, transform a borderline playoff team, into a middle of the playoff pack contender. Surrounded with emerging young players, a veteran point guard, and true center in Dalembert, Philadelphia can move up a rung in the Eastern Conference pecking order, right below the top four.


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