The 76ers don't seem especially pleased with one another right now, so it seems fitting that yesterday they spent the day apart.
After Tuesday night's 105-98 loss to the Washington Wizards - as disheartening a defeat as the Sixers have endured this season, and they've endured many - the postgame commentary seemed especially pointed.
Yesterday, the Sixers were off. Today, they practice at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Tomorrow, the team flies to Utah, where it will open a 10-day, five-game Western trip Saturday night against the Jazz.
The Sixers are 7-21. They have lost 15 of their last 17 games and are above only the New Jersey Nets in the Eastern Conference standings.
After Tuesday night's loss, a game in which the Sixers were ahead, 79-72, going into the fourth quarter, Sixers coach Eddie Jordan repeatedly called the fourth-quarter defense "horrible," while power forward Elton Brand, clearly not speaking about himself, said, "Certain guys have a longer leash than others, so they played longer and the mistakes were shown."
By deduction, Brand's words seemed to be meant for backup center Marreese Speights, who played 9 minutes, 51 seconds in the fourth quarter, nearly all of that time alongside Brand.
Speights is known for his scoring, not his defending.
Brand said the Wizards "did what they were supposed to do. They out-energy-ed us, outhustled us."
Five games ago, Jordan moved Brand, who had been a starter for all of his 10-plus NBA seasons, to the bench.
After the loss to the Wizards, Brand seemed frustrated, nearly despondent. When asked whether he had any ideas that might improve the team, Brand said he did not.
"I have no idea," he said. "I'm just going to follow . . . and work hard and try to turn this thing around."
The trip West includes games against the Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Clippers, and Denver Nuggets.
Before signing with the Sixers in July 2008, Brand played seven seasons with the Clippers, a team that was a perennial loser. About an hour before Tuesday's game, Brand was asked how difficult it was to struggle with a team that shouldn't be rebuilding - the Sixers - after spending most of his career with losing teams.
"It's very difficult," Brand said. "When you're young, with a young team, lowest-salary-cap team, you're expected to lose. You're rebuilding, that's the term. But you get to a team that's not supposed to be rebuilding and wants to win, and going through the trials that we've been going through, it wears on you - emotionally and physically."
A.I.'s knee. The Sixers have not changed the return timetable for point guard Allen Iverson, who is suffering from arthritis in his left knee. Iverson still is expected to return to game action Dec. 28 against the Trail Blazers.