When Elton Brand takes to the O2 floor on Thursday night, he will once again be the most experienced Hawk for Atlanta.
The 34-year old forward has been in the league since the 1999 draft when the Chicago Bulls selected him with the first overall pick and he hopes that his approach to maintaining his longevity sets the tone for the younger players on the Hawks.
“I definitely try to work hard and give it all out there especially being a 15-year vet, kind of lead and show the young guys how to have long careers and you have to put in that work and put in that effort. We have some great young players.”
Brand’s minutes this season have dropped from 21.2 per game last year to 13.7 per game this season, a decrease that is as a result of the excellent play of team-mate Paul Millsap – a player who has stepped up to the challenge of helping lead the Hawks following Al Horford’s season-ending injury.
Horford sustained a torn pectoral muscle in late December, leaving Millsap to hold the fort in the Atlanta frontcourt, something he has done by averaging 17.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.1 blocks a night. Brand, understandably, is a big fan of Millsap’s, ranking him highly in best power forwards he’s ever played with.
“He’s right up there,” Brand said during practice on Wednesday. “I didn’t know much (about him) except for playing against him but he’s right up there with all of them,”
“He’s improved his three-point range; he didn’t shoot threes like this but coach Bud and the coaching staff worked with him and he has to be over 40% (Millsap is shooting 39.4% from three this season), he’s a great worker and getting better and better.”
The better Millsap plays, the less punishment on the court that Brand will have to put his ageing body through which would potentially lengthen his career in the league. But how much longer does Brand intend to lace up his boots for? It’s a question Brand asked himself recently.
“I take it year by year. I feel really good,” said the Hawk veteran. “I had a conversation with Paul Pierce (36 years old, 15 years in the league) and he was like ‘How long you got?’ and I was like ‘How long YOU got?’ and he was like ‘I got another year or two’. We’re loving it and we’re enjoying it and enjoying competing and as long as the body holds up, we’ll see.”
The Atlanta Hawks face the Brooklyn Nets at the O2 Arena on Thursday 16th January with top-off at 8pm (UK time)