PHILADELPHIA — His career seemingly over, Elton Brand believed his only veteran leadership would come at home with his kids.
The Philadelphia 76ers had other ideas.
With a youthful roster sorely in need of mentoring, the Sixers signed the free-agent forward on Monday with the hope Brand can provide some guidance in the locker room.
"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 hasn’t played this season — he didn’t dress Monday — and spent time riding bikes, practicing yoga and taking his kids to school. The Sixers, on pace for one of the worst seasons in NBA history, had only two players with only five-plus years of experience and needed a big brother of sorts on the roster.
Jahlil Okafor, the No. 3 overall pick out of Duke, has had his emergence as one of the top rookies in the NBA spoiled by his role in a Boston street fight. He served a two-game suspension last month for the fight and has been involved with other off-court incidents. Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid also have been criticized at times for a lacklustre work ethic or tardiness, and coach Brett Brown hoped a respected star like Brand could help their growth.
"His role will be one of guidance, one of mentorship," Brown said.
It will not include playing 35 minutes a game.
"I think I can be serviceable," Brand said.
Brand was the first overall pick out of Duke in the 1999 NBA draft by the Chicago Bulls and was named Rookie of the Year.
Brand has played 16 seasons in the NBA, most recently two seasons with the Atlanta Hawks (2013-2015). He has appeared in 1,041 career NBA games and made 867 starts, posting averages of 16 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two blocks per game. Brand will join the Sixers for the second time in his career. He spent four seasons in Philadelphia from 2008-2012, averaging 13 points and seven rebounds per game.
Brand was a two-time All-Star when he spurned better offers and signed an $82 million, five-year free-agent contract in 2008 with Philadelphia. While Brand was the locker-room leader and heart of the Sixers, his production never merited the deal he signed as one of the hottest free agents available.
He played only 29 games in an injury-filled first season with Philadelphia and never meshed with former coach Eddie Jordan in his second. Under Doug Collins, Brand found his niche, and led the Sixers in scoring with 15.0 points a game in 2010-11.
Following the NBA lockout, the Sixers used their one-time amnesty provision on Brand in July 2012.
He never counted on a second tenure with the team.
"It was over," he said. "I was just thankful for the great opportunity and all the blessings I had. I kind of moved on."
Now, he’s back and he should wear his familiar No. 42 when the Sixers play Thursday against Atlanta.