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Brand puts in extra hours

Times Staff Writer

Elton Brand says he’s too busy to rest.

“I’ve got to get my work in,” the All-Star power forward said Monday after practice. “I’ve got to get ready for this season; the past doesn’t matter.”

Last season, Brand led the Clippers to their best year in franchise history, was selected second-team All-NBA and played for the U.S. national team that earned a bronze medal at the world championships in Japan.

Concerned about Brand being overextended, some in the organization urged the Clippers’ franchise player to take it easy this exhibition season. But Brand doesn’t have a cruise-control button, he said.

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“We could be really good, we could be great, but it all starts with what you do now,” Brand said. “You can’t expect to be one of the best teams unless you’re going to put in the work, so that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Coaches and players said the seven-year veteran has continued to set the tone in practice and the weight room. Brand shoots jumpers with assistant coach Kim Hughes for about an hour after practice.

“I feel fine,” Brand said. “I know it’s something people think about with everything this summer, but I feel good. I want to have as good a year as I can, so I’m going just as hard, if not harder, than I always have.”

Brand, 27, averaged a team-high 39.2 minutes in 79 of 81 games last season. He also led the Clippers in scoring with a personal-best average of 24.7 points, rebounding at 10 a game and blocked shots at 2.54.

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In the playoffs, Brand averaged 39.6 minutes, 17.8 points and 10 rebounds as the Clippers defeated the Denver Nuggets, 4-1, in a best-of-seven first-round Western Conference series.

Brand’s performance reached another level, the Clippers said, in the seven-game semifinals series they lost to the Phoenix Suns. He averaged 45.6 minutes, 30.9 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.1 blocks and shot 59.1% from the field. So far in five exhibition games, Brand is averaging 29.2 minutes.

“It’s like I told everyone before last season, Elton is our horse, and we were only going to go as far as he would take us,” point guard Sam Cassell said. “Horse knows what he needs to do to get ready, and he’s out there doing it. That’s just the way he is.”

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Center Chris Kaman did not practice Monday because of his strained left hamstring and might not play Wednesday night against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center, Coach Mike Dunleavy said.

“It depends on if he feels really good and he has practice time,” Dunleavy said.

“He’s already played some exhibition games, and he’s played well, so I’m not really worried about that part of it. I just don’t want to get into a situation where he has any kind of a nagging injury.”

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jason.reid@latimes.com


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