Although Elton Brand is no longer injured, he's on the sideline nearly as much as if he were.
Expecting him to complain, publicly, about such a thing is a lot like asking him to miss a box out: He's spent a career trying not to.
But there are hints. Frustration exists.
You'd be crazy to think it didn't.
Listening to Brand talk about this season - and listening to 76ers coach Eddie Jordan talk about his lineup - is a lesson in reading between the lines.
Through seven games this season, in which the Sixers are 3-4, Brand is playing 27.6 minutes a game. He's fifth on the team in scoring with a 10.1 average, shooting 45.2 percent.
"Of course there's a level of frustration creeping in, being 3-4," Brand said after yesterday's practice at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. "We're close to being 5-2 and it's all smiles around here, but being 3-4, it's frustrating, absolutely."
Tonight at 7:30, the Sixers play the winless New Jersey Nets at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J.
Before signing a five-year, $80 million contract with the Sixers before last season, Brand, in nine NBA seasons, had never played a full NBA season averaging less than 37.0 minutes a game.
Two seasons ago, he missed all but eight games with a torn Achilles. Last season, he missed all but 29 games with a shoulder injury.
After averaging 20.3 points and 10.1 rebounds during his first nine NBA seasons, Brand is averaging 13.1 points and 8.3 rebounds a game in 36 games with the Sixers.
Added up, all those numbers, spanning a decade, can be summarized with a few words: Things aren't going as planned.
Brand is sitting at the end of close games. He's become a very expensive fifth option. And Jordan seems less concerned with how to incorporate Brand and more concerned with Brand accepting the situation.
"I look at how you play in the game," Jordan said. "It's not all about stats; anybody can get stats and lose. There are a lot of good stat players on losing teams that when you put them on winning teams, they're not good players. Not to say I'm talking about our guys."
In his career, Brand has made only one playoff appearance, in 2006 with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Does Jordan see any indication of Brand becoming his pre-injury self?
"I see some of it, yeah," Jordan said. "But I don't see all of it."
Is Jordan worried about sitting Brand at the end of games?
"I don't really worry about that . . ." Jordan said. "There's a bottom line to this business and if I like the six or seven guys I rotate at the end of games with matchups and the way they're playing, I'm playing those guys."
Added Jordan: "I'm not changing the lineup, the starters, and I'm not changing the way I feel about who's playing well at the end of the game."
Brand said that "absolutely" this was the first time in his career he has sat when games are being decided. He said that, of course, he's pressing to show he can return to pre-injury effectiveness.
"I'm human, so it happens," Brand said. "I don't think I've had the opportunity to be out there and say, 'Hey, OK, let's do something different,' you know what I mean?"
After Monday night's 119-115 loss to the Phoenix Suns - one of the games this season in which Brand sat the entire fourth quarter - a question to Brand went something like, "So, you've been on the bench at the end of the last three games?"
Added Brand: "At least . . ."
Change a comin'? Both Brand and center Samuel Dalembert have seen limited minutes. Both have watched many of this season's fourth quarters. Backup center Marreese Speights has seen the bulk of the end-of-game minutes at center.
Jordan said he wasn't considering a lineup change.
"When you deal with the starting lineup, that can be a sensitive issue among the players," Jordan explained. "I don't want to touch a nerve right there right now. Look, are there reasons or are there some reasons for me to warrant to change the starting lineup? Yeah, because our second group has been playing very well. I like the way Marreese has been playing, I like the way Jason Smith has been playing . . . but does that warrant me to change the starting lineup? No, not right now."
Vote away. Yesterday, the NBA released its 2010 all-star ballot. The Sixers have three players on it: Andre Iguodala, Brand, and Dalembert. Iguodala and Brand are both listed as forwards, two of 24 on the ballot. Dalembert is one of 12 centers listed. For more information on how to vote, visit the Sixers Web site at Sixers.com.