Sixers’ Brand Is Playing With Hand Fracture

The fracture was originally disclosed as an injury that would not prohibit Brand from playing, apparently out of concern that some opposing players might target the hand if they knew it was fractured. Brand has continued to play through the injury with the 76ers still vying for playoff positioning.

“It still bothers him,” , Philadelphia’s president, said in a telephone call Monday night. “He’s had trouble for the last month trying to catch balls. There’s no complaints about it from him. He keeps playing. His confidence, his leadership, have been invaluable to our team.”

The (38-38) and Philadelphia (40-37) will meet Wednesday night in a game that will help determine the Eastern Conference playoff seedings. They are separated by a game and a half in the conference standings, with the 76ers sixth and the Knicks seventh and both teams in action Tuesday night. In the first round of the playoffs, the two teams will match up with Miami (54-23) and Boston (53-23), but who will play whom has yet to be determined.

The 6-foot-8 Brand is Philadelphia’s leading scorer and rebounder. On Feb. 27 he dislocated the pinkie finger on his right hand in a game against Cleveland and began playing with a splint. He sustained the fracture in his left hand in a game 10 days later against the Oklahoma City Thunder. He finished the game, playing 41 minutes.

In the 13 games since the injury to his left hand, Brand’s scoring average dipped to 13.3 points and his team went 7-6. But Brand scored 20 and 21 points in his last two games, which Philadelphia split. Thorn said the 76ers would consider resting Brand if their playoff seeding is decided before the regular season ends.

“He is a pro’s pro,” Thorn said. “He comes to play every day and he hasn’t missed anything despite having a broken hand.”

Brand was limited by injuries and underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in February 2009 after signing with the 76ers as a free agent in the summer of 2008. He has not been in the postseason with the 76ers and, in fact, has been in only two playoff series in his 12-year career, both with the in 2006.

Brand, his teammates Thaddeus Young and Andre Iguodala and Coach Doug Collins are considered the main catalysts in Philadelphia’s revitalization. The 76ers are closing in on their first winning season since 2004-5. After starting the season with 10 losses in 13 games, they are tied for the league’s ninth-best winning percentage (.607) since Nov. 27.

“We were 3-13, and it felt like, ‘Here we go again,’ ” Brand recently told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “We lost close games; it was disappointing. But we were able to fight out of it.”

Collins, who was an analyst for TNT before taking the 76ers job this season, replaced as head coach. Thorn joined the organization as president last summer after spending the previous decade with .

“He’s gotten guys to buy into playing with each other and to be accountable to each other,” Thorn said of Collins, who previously was a head coach in Chicago, Detroit and Washington. “We’ve got a team that plays hard every night and I give him tremendous credit for an incredible job.”

For the season, Brand is averaging 14.9 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.25 blocks a game. He has started every game for Philadelphia this season, except for missing one game for a suspension for a flagrant foul against the . His numbers are better against the Knicks. In three games against them this season, Brand has averaged 27 points and 9.3 rebounds. Philadelphia is 2-1 in those games.

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