Brand’s return lifts Clippers
SEATTLE -- Elton Brand is back, just in time to potentially make life tough for some Western Conference teams fighting for playoff position.
The Clippers forward made his season debut Wednesday night against the lowly Seattle SuperSonics. Brand had missed the entire season while recovering from a surgically repaired left Achilles’ tendon.
Brand was injured during an off-season workout on Aug. 3 and the Clippers have been a non-factor this season. He checked in with 6:02 left in the first quarter to applause from injured teammates Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas sitting at the end of the bench. He missed his first shot 34 seconds later.
His first basket came with 3:08 left in first quarter, a right-hand shot from the low block. He immediately yelled “and one” wanting a foul on the play but didn’t get the call.
Brand finished with 19 points and played almost 26 minutes. The Clippers beat the SuperSonics, 102-84.
“It felt great just competing,” Brand said.
Said Coach Mike Dunleavy: “I really hadn’t planned on much, playing him in the 16-minute area. Then in that first half he got competitive and said, ‘I want to play some more.’ ”
Brand’s return could help alter the wild Western Conference playoff race.
The Clippers play at Sacramento on Thursday night, but then return home to play Houston, Denver and the Lakers. Then the Clippers end the season on the road against the Warriors, Hornets and Rockets.
The Clippers made the playoffs two seasons ago and were in the chase all the way to the final week last season. With three games left, the Clippers and Warriors were tied for the final spot. The Warriors went 3-0 and the Clippers 1-2.
Then Brand suffered his injury in August and the Clippers have struggled. They had dropped 11 of 12 entering Wednesday night’s game.
Few athletes in their prime have sustained a rupture of an Achilles’ tendon.
The closest basketball case to Brand’s is former Atlanta Hawks forward Dominique Wilkins, who ruptured his Achilles’ tendon midway in the 1991-1992 season. He returned to have one of his best seasons, averaging 29.9 points.
“That was one of the toughest things I ever had to deal with in my life,” Wilkins said. “It took me nine months to get back to the level I was at and I was scared to death. I felt like if I came back, it was going to pop again.”
at Sacramento, 7, FSN Prime
Site -- Arco Arena.
Radio -- 710.
Records -- Clippers 23-52, Kings 34-40.
Record vs. Kings -- 3-0.
Update -- The Clippers are attempting to earn their first season sweep of the Kings since the 1985-86 season.
-- Jonathan Abrams