If you watched the fourth quarter of Wednesday night's come-from-behind win over the Milwaukee Bucks, you saw a version of the 76ers found only on last season's game film.
It was a pleasant sight. There were effective backcourt traps, quick transition buckets, and rebounds chased to all corners. It was an end-to-end style of play that led to a playoff appearance - but then to a first-round exit.
But it wasn't the future.
The future, or the man the Sixers hope is their future, was in the training room having his dislocated right shoulder popped into place.
Power forward Elton Brand, whom team president and general manager Ed Stefanski signed to a five-year, $80 million contract in July, dislocated his right shoulder midway through the third quarter Wednesday night.
Later that night, Brand went off-site for an MRI. Yesterday, the Sixers confirmed the details of his injury: fracture of the humeral head (bone), tear of the labrum.
In layman's terms, that means the Sixers' leading scorer is pretty badly hurt. The estimated recovery time is about a month because the Sixers' doctor, Jack McPhilemy, said he did not believe the injury required surgery at this time.
Stefanski said that McPhilemy conferred via telephone with a shoulder specialist, and that both agreed on the course of action. Brand began rehabilitation yesterday and did not travel with the Sixers to Washington, where they play the Wizards at 7 o'clock tonight.
The injury will force Brand to miss games for the second time this season. He missed back-to-back contests earlier this month with a strained right hamstring. Last season with the Los Angeles Clippers, Brand missed all but eight games with a torn Achilles tendon.
Before this injury, Brand conceded he "wasn't 100 percent healthy."
"It's unfortunate that this happened, but we're starting rehab right away, and I'm going to do everything I can to get back as soon as possible," Brand said in a statement. "While I'm disappointed, I'm going to continue to support my teammates and the coaches in any way they need me."
"It's going to be difficult," Stefanski said. "We've been trying to implement the whole situation here."
By "whole situation," Stefanski meant the blending of Brand's low-post game with the team's previous up-tempo style, a blending that, through 25 games, had not been achieved.
Stefanski denied needing to sign a temporary post player to a 15-day contract.
"I don't see any immediate need roster-wise to go out and get someone," Stefanski said. "I don't see anyone out there that makes a lot of sense."
The pieces, Stefanski said, exist within the already assembled roster. New head coach Tony DiLeo will most likely redistribute Brand's significant block of minutes among centers Samuel Dalembert and Theo Ratliff, power forwards Reggie Evans and Marreese Speights, and former small forward Thaddeus Young.
While DiLeo, who tonight will coach his third game since Saturday's firing of Maurice Cheeks, would not confirm Young as his new starting power forward, the move seemed more than likely. DiLeo said the starting lineup would be determined at game time.
"Either way, Thad's going to play a lot and more at the four," DiLeo said.
"I'm thinking I may be starting," Young said. "But we'll see."
Added Young: "I played four for much of last season, so I know how to bang."
Even more than the nuts and bolts of tonight's matchup, the question many Sixers fans are asking themselves is: "Will this team play better without Brand on the floor?"
The short-term answer - if you watched Wednesday night - is yes. But what the Sixers were building - reliable half-court options with an explosive transition game - was halted when Brand crashed to the hardwood Wednesday.
"It will change some because we wanted to play through Elton if we didn't have a break," DiLeo said of the schemes. "He's a major loss, and most of my thinking since I took the job was using the strengths of all players, including him. We'll save those plans for when he comes back."
"The past is the past," Evans said when asked about feeling nostalgic for last season's style of play. "You can't live in the past. At the end of the day, we need him. We need Elton Brand. We need him real bad."
Kate Fagan blogs about the 76ers at http://go.philly.com/dsix.EndText