Yesterday at practice, Elton Brand was as nonexistent as the 76ers' last-second defense Tuesday night against Ray Allen.
That is to say, Brand was not in the vicinity.
As the rest of the Sixers discussed the end-of-game breakdown that led to Allen's game-winning three-pointer and introduced strategy for tonight's game against the Indiana Pacers, Brand was undergoing an MRI on his injured right shoulder.
The injury is healing as expected. For further evaluation, Brand is scheduled to see orthopedic surgeon Craig Morgan today. Officially, Brand is listed as day-to-day, but he is expected to be available for tonight's game.
The questions about Brand's health resurfaced Wednesday night as Brand went scoreless and did not play in the second half because his shoulder, dislocated Dec. 17, had "stiffened up."
Although Sixers coach Tony DiLeo acknowledged that it was difficult not knowing whether Brand was 100 percent, he sought to dispel rumors that the team was considering shutting Brand down.
"We're still expecting to work him into the lineup," DiLeo said.
"We're close in the healing process. We expect him to play, contribute."
"We want him healthy," said center Samuel Dalembert, "but we also want him for the next four years."
Brand did not contribute much Tuesday night, going scoreless in 8 minutes, 40 seconds of first-half play. DiLeo said Brand's on-court absence in the second half had nothing to do with his productivity and everything to do with his medical status.
DiLeo said that if Brand had been healthy, he would have played in the second half.
Without Brand, the Sixers climbed back from a 15-point deficit and held a two-point lead with 6.8 seconds left.
On that final defensive possession, Dalembert and forward Thaddeus Young miscommunicated on a flare screen. Allen's open three-pointer with five-tenths of a second left stunned spectators at the Wachovia Center.
DiLeo said his orders were to "switch everything."
"Yes," the coach said. "We thought everything was clear."
DiLeo added: "After every game, we try to first look at our defense. So we did that this morning, and then we introduced Indiana's sets."
Dalembert said he blamed himself.
"As a defender, it's my job to see the whole floor from behind," he said.
Since boosting their record to a game over .500, the Sixers have lost two consecutive home games and slipped to 23-24. Indiana is 19-30, but it won the last meeting between the two. Guard T.J. Ford's last-second jumper gave the Pacers a 95-94 win on Dec. 20 at the Wachovia Center.
This last-second jumper is becoming a regular occurrence for the Sixers.
"Teams tend to point fingers," guard Andre Miller said. "But we don't want to fall into that trap."
Still hurting. Dalembert, still suffering soreness from the left ankle he turned last week, participated only in non-contact drills yesterday. He is expected to play tonight.