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Elton Brand wants to give back, signs with 76ers to be mentor

Elton Brand signed a contract with the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday, with the hope he can be a mentor to rookie Jahlil Okafor.

Brand writes in a first-person piece for Sports Illustrated's "The Cauldron" that he's not coming back because of financial considerations or to win championships, but instead to repay "what's owed, about making sure that the young men who follow in my footsteps get what they're entitled to [and what I haven't always given them]."

"`I know I can affect change and be a part of something,'' Brand said before the 76ers played Minnesota. "I might not make it to the end when it's really, really good around here. But I can be a part of something as a player.''

The 36-year-old Brand played last season with the Atlanta Hawks, averaging 2.7 points and 2.8 rebounds in 36 games, but he has not played this season.

Brand writes that he never tried to mentor players in the past because he was "following the NBA blueprint that had been engrained in me from the beginning: Play well, keep your head down, offend as few people as possible, and get paid."

He hopes to be a "positive influence" for the 76ers, specifically with Okafor, who he writes is "a good kid with a good heart." Brand also mentions Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid.

"I think I can be serviceable,'' Brand said.

The 76ers suspended Okafor for two games last month after videos surfaced of the team's first-round draft pick being involved in scuffles in Boston after a game against the Celtics. Okafor, who turned 20 on Dec. 15, is averaging 17.3 points and 7.7 rebounds.

"He's not unlike most 20-year-olds you probably know, and he's definitely not at all different than most of his fellow players. Hell, if camera phones were around when Brad Miller, Ron Artest and I were Jahlil's age, we might've been banned from the league altogether, never mind suspended for a few games," he writes.

Brand makes it clear that he's not signing with the 76ers "to hold Jahlil's hand -- or anyone else's, for that matter -- because that's not what he needs. But I do believe my experience and wisdom can benefit him and my other young teammates.

"It's about communicating with them like men, starting to grow together, and -- hopefully, eventually -- winning some ballgames. That's what [general manager] Sam Hinkie and I talked about when he approached me about joining the team, and what has me so excited about this opportunity."

In 16 NBA seasons, Brand averaged 16.1 points and 8.6 rebounds. The Chicago Bulls selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 draft.

To make room for Brand on the roster, the 76ers waived forward Christian Wood.