Lockout or not, Elton Brand is set to play basketball with his Philadelphia 76ers teammates.
Brand helped organize a team workout scheduled for next week in Los Angeles and most of the key Sixers have told him they will attend. Andre Iguodala, Evan Turner, Lou Williams and others will fly in, share a hotel, play and work out together and do what they can to get ready for the season.
Whenever that starts, no one is quite sure.
"I can't wait to see where the guys are at," Brand said. "I've been talking to them all summer. They seem to be in shape already in case we get this thing going."
The lingering, messy lockout has thrown doubt that training camp and the regular season will start on time. These loosely organized team activities -- without any input or supervision from the coaching staff -- are as close as the Sixers can get to a training camp without traveling to Philadelphia. Brand's weekly, upbeat offseason texts from coach Doug Collins have vanished from his BlackBerry. The Sixers have completely faded from Philadelphia's bustling sports scene.
But the numerous economic issues that have divided the players and owners are still a daily harsh reality for everyone connected with the sport. Brand attended an NBPA meeting this week in Los Angeles where the message from union leaders and superstars like Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce was a simple one: Stick together.
"I can't speak for the owner's side, but on the player's side, there's definitely a sense of urgency to meet and talk," Brand said.
Brand has assumed the role of de facto team player rep. Jason Kapono held the position last season, but is a free agent now. Brand keeps in touch with Players Association executive director Billy Hunter and keeps his teammates informed.
Brand, entering the fourth of a five-year contract, said "it's tough to answer" if the Sixers really will open the season Nov. 2 in Toronto.
"I'll have a better feel closer to training camp," Brand said. "As of now, it doesn't look good. It doesn't look good at all. I don't think we're going to start with a normal training camp because the numbers are so far apart. But I think as training camp gets closer, we'll know more if we have to miss games."
Brand hasn't ruled out playing overseas if the lockout drags into the regular season. Numerous players have said they would consider playing overseas. Nets All-Star guard Deron Williams recently agreed to a deal with Besiktas of Turkey. Brand has made about 126 million since his rookie year in 1999 and was set to make 17 million this season with the Sixers.
So, if he went abroad, it's not because he needs the cash.
"If the season starts on Jan. 1, I would love to have a leg up on guys," Brand said. "I wouldn't want anyone to have a leg up on me. That's why it's been, as we're inching closer, it's been in my brain. I want to be in peak physical condition when the season starts."
He misses the texts and conversations with Collins and the staff. When Quin Snyder, who recruited Brand to Duke, left his job as an assistant coach to join the Los Angeles Lakers, Brand couldn't even wish him congratulations and good luck.
When Brand returns to work, he'll have a new boss. Comcast-Spectacor sold the team to a group led by New York-based leveraged buyout specialist Joshua Harris. The deal is still awaiting approval by the NBA.
When the Atlanta Hawks were sold earlier this month, new owner Alex Meruelo had to fight back tears as he talked about what it means to be the NBA's first Hispanic team owner.
Harris, oddly, has decided to refrain from publicly talking about the Sixers and his plans for a franchise that hasn't won a championship since 1983. Brand said the team won't be the same without chairman Ed Snider around.
"We're definitely going to miss him," Brand said, "and all he's done for the organization over the years."
For a player who might temporarily be out of a job this fall, Brand has kept busy.
He and Dallas center Brendan Haywood participated in a youth camp in St. Maarten. Brand and his production company, Milk and Media, are reading scripts and greenlighting projects. Brand spent about 10 days in Louisiana earlier this summer -- "getting eaten up by insects" -- overseeing the psychological thriller, "No One Lives," starring Luke Evans.
Backed by WWE and Pathe Films, Brand watched the dailies, oversaw script changes, and made sure shooting stayed true to the vision of the project. Brand's next passion project is a film about hip hop artist and actor Tupac Shakur.
And of course, he's been playing pickup games with other NBA players around Los Angeles.
But he's antsy for the real deal to start.
"The one thing I'd want to get out there is for the fans to know we appreciate their support," he said. "We're doing all we can as players to try and make this thing right so we can have a season."
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