Slowly but steadily, 76ers coach Eddie Jordan is moving away from power forward Elton Brand and toward a faster, sleeker style of play.
On Monday night, Jordan moved Brand to the bench in favor of rookie point guard Jrue Holiday.
Yesterday, in advance of tonight's game against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Wachovia Center, Jordan refused to commit to the same, Brand-less starting lineup, but his words sounded awfully like a commitment.
"I really don't know," said Jordan, when asked if he'd keep the same lineup tonight. "I just like to, I don't want to change so much. My initial thought was to start the same way we started [Monday] . . . I don't like changing it a lot. When you get a rhythm going with your starters - a good rhythm and you're successful - then you keep those guys together."
Right now, that good rhythm and success comes in the form of a one-game winning streak, which replaced a 12-game, 25-day losing streak. Near the beginning of that losing streak, the Sixers lost at Cleveland, 97-91, on Nov. 21. James, who likely will fill the Wachovia Center with thousands more fans than usual, scored 32 points in that win.
The Sixers are 6-18. Cleveland is 17-7.
Moving Brand to the bench allows Jordan to slide Andre Iguodala from shooting guard to small forward and Thaddeus Young from small forward to power forward.
Asked if he had concluded Iguodala and Young were playing out of position, Jordan said, "I'm leaning that way."
Added Jordan: "I like Andre and Thad getting out and running straight lines to the basket."
On Monday night, Brand played 16 minutes. He is averaging 12.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 30.5 minutes a game this season. At yesterday's practice, the 6-foot-8 Brand sounded like a guy trying to say as little as possible, and remain as professional as possible. "Of course I feel I'm just as good as a starter," Brand said, going on to say he is fine with the move as long as it produces victories.
It produced one Monday night: Holiday played 36 minutes and scored 15 points in a 117-110 win over the Golden State Warriors.
Yesterday, the 6-4 rookie said he "anticipates playing" but has not been told if he will continue starting.
Jordan said at the beginning of the season he purposefully played Holiday sparingly. "He had to go through a rite of passage," Jordan explained. "I think everybody likes playing with Jrue. It increases our speed and quickness. We like the pace that the small lineup brings us."
Defending LeBron. In that earlier loss at Cleveland, the Sixers were ahead at the start of the fourth quarter. Then James took over as point-forward and bullied his way to a victory. Yesterday, the Sixers said they would execute the same game plan as last time, which includes helping out on defense against LeBron as much as possible.
Still more injuries. Neither Allen Iverson (fluid in his left knee) nor Iguodala (left rib contusion) practiced yesterday at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Both are expected to play tonight.
Marreese Speights, coming back from a partially torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee, practiced yesterday for the third time since his injury on Nov. 14. His timetable for returning six to eight weeks from the injury has not been changed.