76ers' Brand reflects on summer split with Clips as 1st rematch nears

PHILADELPHIA -- Elton Brand loved LA.

He enjoyed the lifestyle and the bright lights of Hollywood, even fancying himself a would-be movie mogul.

Yes, Brand even loved playing for the Clippers. He was the face of the long-suffering franchise and called his relationship with coach Mike Dunleavy "as good as player and coach could be."

That makes Dunleavy all the more perplexed how his split with Brand has turned out more like McCartney and Mills than Bruce and Demi.

While the hurt feelings linger in Los Angeles, Brand moved on to Philadelphia and a five-year deal worth nearly $80 million. Brand still occasionally chats with Clippers assistants and keeps in contact "quite often" with former teammates Cuttino Mobley and Chris Kaman, but the All-Star forward hasn't reached out to Dunleavy.

"There's nothing really to talk about," said Brand after 76ers practice Thursday.

Dunleavy wouldn't mind a chat before Friday's game in Philadelphia to figure out why Brand bailed on the Clippers.

"We had a great relationship the whole time he was here," Dunleavy said. "It's surprising, some things you can't figure out. I don't know why he left. All the e-mails we exchanged were positive. All of a sudden, it just fell off a cliff."

Dunleavy was upset because he said that he had a verbal agreement with Brand to remain with the Clippers for $70 million over five years.

"He gave us his word he would come and play for us," Dunleavy told ESPN 950 in Phildelphia on Thursday. "It wasn't binding or anything.

"All he had to do was call me up and say, 'Hey coach, I know I told you this but I changed my mind because of my family.' What would I have said? You're a great guy, I love you. You have to do what's best for you and your family."

Brand, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 draft out of Duke, said his intention was to work out a contract with the Clippers. But he spurned Los Angeles once agent David Falk said he was offered a "take it or leave it" contract on June 30. Falk also said at Brand's news conference that he never reached any kind of deal with the Clippers.

Dunleavy and Brand haven't spoke since the news conference. The veteran coach hopes that changes on Friday.

"If we don't speak, it won't be because I don't want to speak to him," Dunleavy said. "I still respect him, he was a great player for us."

Brand said he hadn't thought too much about the game, saying he might feel different if he was traded or released. He was the one who made the decision to leave via free agency so there's nothing left to prove.

His former teammates only wish Brand well.

"No hard feelings. I'm mad at Elton because he didn't buy my house," said smiling Clippers forward and former Villanova standout Tim Thomas. "That's about it. This is a business. Elton made a decision to play back East, closer to home. That's about it. You can't be mad at him."

Brand averaged 20.3 points and 10.2 rebounds over nine seasons with the Clippers and Bulls to make him one of only four active players to average a double-double.

He's averaging 15.8 points and 10.5 rebounds in his first 11 games with the Sixers (5-6) and trying to find the right chemistry with center Samuel Dalembert.

Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks expects Brand to have some added excitement in his first game against the Clippers.

"There's always going to be a little more buildup for someone who's left their team. Always." Cheeks said. "No matter how you leave there's always going to be buildup on both sides. There's always going to be someone who wants to be able to play well against their team and that other team wants to play well for their team."

The jitters might come Dec. 31 when Brand makes his first return to Los Angeles to play the Clippers.

"Yeah, definitely New Year's when I go back and hear all those great applause," he said, laughing. "It might be a little different there."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.