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Brand out, again

Because of the strained right hamstring he suffered on Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Lakers, power forward Elton Brand will be out again tonight against the New Jersey Nets.

The Sixers are listing Brand as day-to-day (but then against aren't we all?) and head coach Maurice Cheeks said they will "see how he feels next week and go from there." After tonight's 7:30 game, the Sixers are off until Wednesday night when they play the Cleveland Cavaliers at home.

Cheeks will go with the same starting lineup as last night in Detroit when the Sixers came from behind to beat the Piston at The Palace of Auburn Hills. That starting lineup has rookie Marreese Speights in Brand's power forward spot.

Sixers starting lineup: Andre Miller, Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, Marreese Speights, and Samuel Dalembert.

Cheeks said Brand's absence is not to give him an extra four days rest because of the upcoming break in the schedule. He said that if Brand felt he could go tonight, the Sixers would have put him out there.

Tonight's game: Sixers (9-11) vs. New Jersey Nets (10-8).

Nets are better than folks anticipated. Their starting lineup will be Devin Harris, Vince Carter, Brook Lopez (also the subject of the above photo I call "Brook Lopez warming up"), Yi Jianlian, and Bobby Simmons.

As for Donyell Marshall's breakout game (that's what it was ...) against the Pistons, Cheeks said he will "see how he feels today." Cheeks said last night's game didn't mean Marshall is now in the rotation without pause. He said of every game: "It's always a feel."

I think Marshall needs to be on the court at least five minutes each half. They need his presence from the perimeter. He is the only one on the roster that poses a true threat. And his ability to run that pick-and-roll -- the one where he fades to the 3-point line -- is an added dimension the Sixers really need.

It will be interesting to see how the Sixers play in back-to-back nights without Brand. If they beat the Nets, too, by playing the style of basketball we expected to see from them (i.e. defensive pressure and transition), Brand's return will mean ... what? Won't we all be poised to see how he impacts the team upon his return?

Here are the matchups -- most likely -- for tonight: Young/Simmons; Speights/Yi; Dalembert/Lopez; Iguodala/Carter; Miller/Harris.

The most interesting of these matchups, for me, is Iguodala/Carter. Iguodala's game has been on the improve lately. He made a few nice shots at the start of last night's game against the Pistons, and I expect him to score in the 17-22 range tonight.

Thirty minutes to game time ...